Ice cleaners nearly a Sjo-stopper

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

Freddie Sjostrom admits his irrational fear of Zambonis.

But the Calgary Flames winger won't fess up to the urban legend of his NHL Entry Draft combine experience in Toronto in 2001.

The story recounted in the bowels of the Saddledome this week goes like this: Sjostrom peddles as hard as possible, gets faint, vomits and hits the floor -- his legs pumping as if he's still on the bike.

"I don't remember that. It's an old tale, I think," the Swede said with a laugh yesterday when asked to confirm its validity. "I remember feeling woozy at the end. You want to impress all the scouts. You want to go as hard as you can.

"I literally did."

He literally let it all out.

But as current teammate Brian McGrattan says, many 18-year-olds at the combine blow chunks when faced with the gruelling fitness tests they've never before experienced.

"Guys are passing out and throwing up everywhere," McGrattan said.

"A4 out of 5, I don't know if I passed out," Sjostrom said hesitantly. "I was going hard as I can to have a good testing. I think I just blew myself out totally and got a little woozy at the end there."

The Zamboni, on the other hand, scared the insides out of Sjostrom as a toddler.

"I think I was four years old. There was this scary guy driving the Zamboni," Sjostrom recalled a day after scoring his first goal with the Flames. "He honked, and I thought he was gonna run me over. I didn't want to come back until a year later."

The spooky driver and his noisy machine might have derailed Sjostrom's hockey career if not for a persistent mother who insisted he give it another shot.

"It took a whole year for me to want to come back to the ice," Sjostrom said. "I'm glad my mom pushed me."

So is Olli Jokinen -- Sjostrom's fellow Scandinavian linemate the last few outings.

The Finn has kind words for the Swede despite their countries' historic hockey rivalry.

"He's one of the fastest skaters we have. He plays physical -- he's not the typical Swedish guy," Jokinen said with a grin.

"He's a great teammate.

"He's one of the toughest Swedes in the league, definitely."

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA


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