CALGARY — Ian White was quick to admit it took awhile for the shock to wear off.
The Steinbach product was stunned last spring when he was dealt by the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Calgary Flames, just prior to the NHL trade deadline.
Being involved in a playoff chase helped, at least until the Flames were eliminated, but it was still a tough mental hurdle to clear.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, just picking up and leaving,” White said Sunday, before the Flames posted a 1-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. “I have a young family I had to leave behind and I maybe had about four or five hours to get packed up, leave and never go back.
“It was a real big shock. I didn’t see it coming at all. It caught pretty much all of us off guard. It was a difficult transition. There wasn’t a lot of down time to sit down and gather your thoughts, which might have been a good thing. You just get thrown in the mix and keep going. But the change of venue was neat too. It was exciting.”
Now with a full training camp under his belt, White has adjusted to his new surroundings and energized by what might lay ahead.
“I’d like to keep improving all the time and making gains,” said White, who had 13 goals and 38 points in 83 games last season. “I won’t be satisfied by whatever happened in the past. I want to win a Stanley Cup. That’s the be all and end all of hockey and that’s why I started playing hockey. That’s what we’re here to do and personally, I just want to do everything I can to help the team make the playoffs and get to that final goal. Whatever I’m asked to do, I’m going to do to the best of my abilities.”
Although many experts figure the Flames could be in tough to make the playoffs again, that’s not the feeling in the locker room, especially after a flawless 7-0 pre-season.
“We’re very happy with what we’ve got in the locker room and I think we’re going to do some special things this year,” said White, who signed a one-year deal for $2,999,995 in July and is entering his sixth NHL season. “Coming off a year like last year was a disappointment for us. If you go through the lineup, we’ve got a great team here, we’ve been playing some good hockey and coming together as a group. We’re holding ourselves to high expectations and everyone in the community is as well.
“We’re a well-balanced team. We’ve got one of the best goalies in the world, we’ve got one of the best defences you can find and our forwards are as deep as you can find in the league too. We’re a hard-working group that plays physical and we’ve got guys that can score as well.”
White is one of a number of Manitobans on opening-day rosters and figures to play a prominent role on the Flames blue-line, playing on a pairing that includes veteran Robyn Regehr.
“I feel comfortable playing with him, we work well together,” said White, who has 32 goals and 117 points in 323 NHL games, without advancing to the Stanley Cup playoffs. “I don’t know if the whole opposites attract thing is true, but we seem to go out there and read off each other. He’s more of a stay-at-home, strong, solid physical guy and I’m kind of the opposite. It just works out there.”
Flames head coach Brent Sutter has noticed that White seems more comfortable in his surroundings and expects big things from the man with the booming shot from the point.
“We’re expecting him to be a top defencemen for us and to be a catalyst for our power play and he will be that,” said Sutter.