Jamie Lundmark’s inaugural prospects camp was before George W. Bush took office for his first term.
Back in 1999, when he arrived at the New York Rangers camp after being drafted ninth overall, one-piece composite sticks weren’t the standard throughout the league.
Yet, 10 years later, Lundmark is still attending camps with raw rookies and draft choices, not allowed a free pass to main camp.
If he’s disappointed, the 28-year-old centre is doing what he can to hide it.
“I knew a couple of weeks ago I was coming to this, so I’d been training to be here,” Lundmark said. “I’m going to stay positive, go through it, get some good skates, learn and go from there.
“The first day was a little rough, but it’s great to have a rough day now instead of the 12th or 13th. Get it out now and when main camp starts, be going 100% for the first game and feeling good for it.”
It’s the team’s option to bring players to prospects camp if they weren’t on the roster for the majority of games the previous season.
Which means Lundmark, who played 27 of his 259 career NHL contests with the Flames last season, can be found skating alongside the likes of 2009 draft choices Spencer Bennett, Ryan Howse and Gaelan Patterson until main camp opens Saturday.
“It might have been an option, but I’m going to make it the best thing for me,” he said. “I’ll get three days in here, get a good skate in before everybody else. And we’re learning new systems and stuff like that, so I’ll be a jump ahead of everybody else.”
It wasn’t supposed to be this way for Lundmark a decade ago. A highly touted WHL player, he jumped to the NHL with the Rangers for the bulk of the 2002-03 campaign.
But since a full season in New York in 2003-04, he’s bounced around in the hopes of finding a full-time NHL gig, and twice re-signed with Calgary as an unrestricted free agent.
And once again trying to make a strong first impression.
“It’s been an up-and-down ride for me,” he admitted. “Every camp it seems like I’ve got to come in and try and make a good first impression and play well in the pre-season and prove myself.
“It’s tough, but everybody has to do it. Unless you’re a top-six forward, you have to do it. It’s part of the game, a challenge, and I like the challenge.”
It will be a big challenge.
A few months ago, there appeared to be a roster spot for a player to jump full-time from the minors.
However, Calgary added Nigel Dawes and Fredrik Sjostrom and now has 14 forwards on one-way contracts.
“That’s the way it goes. It happens every year,” said Lundmark, who netted eight goals and 16 points for Calgary last season. “After I signed, I knew they would sign other people and they did. They’re trying to make the team better and training camp more competitive, and that’s the way it’s gonna be.”
The good news is the belief GM Darryl Sutter has shown in Lundmark, which could translate into similar feeling for head coach Brent Sutter.
“Hopefully,” he said. “Darryl’s been great to me. That’s why I keep coming back here. I feel Darryl trusts me and knows I can play. With Brent now, it’s hopefully the same way. I’ve been here three years now and to get another shot to play is big for me.