SUN Hockey Pool

Nystrom: Flames struggles 'blown up'

Calgary Flames' Henrik Karlsson fails to stop a shot by New Jersey Devils' Ilya Kovalchuk....

Calgary Flames' Henrik Karlsson fails to stop a shot by New Jersey Devils' Ilya Kovalchuk. (REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:03 PM ET

He may no longer call the Saddledome home, but Eric Nystrom knows exactly what it feels like to be a member of the Calgary Flames when things are going badly.

And he still feels a little protective of his former mates.

“It gets blown up so bad around here,” said Nystrom, who signed with the Minnesota Wild as a free agent this summer. “I don’t miss that one bit.”

Life is different in the Twin Cities.

The Wild were just four points ahead of the Flames in the Western Conference standings before the two teams clashed at the Dome Monday night, but their struggles south of the border aren’t splashed across the news pages or websites, or broadcast on a nightly basis.

The feeling in the dressing rooms might be the same, but there’s an extra level of discomfort in Calgary, where outside influences affect even the players who suggest they never read or watch what’s going on in the media.

“Nobody’s happy when you lose, but when you’ve got six TV cameras and 80 reporters in there glorifying it, that’s one thing,” said Nystrom.

“It’s tough when every time you lose, a huge deal is made of it. It’s hard to find the positives.

“Those guys are working as hard as they can but every time something bad happens, it’s glorified a million percent. That makes you squeeze your stick tighter and it makes it hard to play.

“Confidence is huge in this game, and when you don’t have any, it’s hard to make those nice plays or want to skate with the puck and want to try and create things.”

Squeezing their sticks tightly most of the season, the Flames have said all the right things. They know they have to be better in most areas.

They need to score more goals, keep more out of their own net, and find a way to become a consistently hard-working team.

They also say things aren’t getting more tense despite an increasingly negative presence in the papers and across the airwaves.

“There’s no more pressure than there was at the beginning of the season when we were three games in and we didn’t have a great start,” Flames captain Jarome Iginla said with a laugh as he recalled in his mind some of the headlines and decrees of hopelessness.

“That was about as much pressure as I’ve seen.”

And really, it’s part of the job in a profession that depends on a dedicated fanbase to pay massive salaries.

But the heat is definitely cranked up in Canada.

“That comes with the territory. It’s Canada, they love the game here. Media covers it, that’s all they have here,” said Nystrom, whose Wild take a backseat to Brett Favre during the NFL season, and battle the NBA and MLB for press all year.

“You’ve got to be mentally tough and play through that, but sometimes, it’s a little overbearing.”

Just another of the obstacles athletes have to deal with. And the Flames have a sport psychologist on staff now to help out with any cranial conditions — outside of concussions of course — that may plague members of the organization.

But the solution to this perceived problem is actually pretty simple.

“If you win games, you won’t have that problem,” Nystrom admits.

“But at the same time, every time you lose, it’s the end of the world.

“It grows on you, that’s for sure.”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/MacfarlaneSteve


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