The cynical person can’t help but notice the jovial scene.
Flames players were given the news of Darryl Sutter’s decision to step down, a nice way of being fired, just before Tuesday’s practice.
Once they were on the ice, the smiles and laughter were prevalent.
“No. No,” immediately replied captain Jarome Iginla. “We’ve been having some fun for a while, and it’s a big part of wins. It’s easy to say we can climb back but guys are starting to believe it.
“We are in the NHL, and it’s about winning, but you have to enjoy it.”
Enjoyment hasn’t been a big part of life around the Saddledome over the past few years.
Even during stints of success, the tension around the players has been overpowering at times.
Fun had almost become secondary, with smiles seen less often than long faces and worried eyes.
Darryl Sutter has long been considered the biggest cause for that lack of enjoyment, especially since moving solely to the GM job.
For all his ability to be charming with that down-home hospitality and family values, he can be harsh with criticism.
Fewer and fewer people in today’s NHL can live with that form of leadership, even with the million-dollar salaries.
“It’s definitely different when Darryl is the coach, compared to the GM,” said centre Craig Conroy. “When guys didn’t have him as a coach and you only see him a few times, you’re a little nervous. You’re kind of scared to say anything, do anything, because he comes with that reputation.
“But when he’s the coach and he’s down here everyday, we knew the good and bad and it was easier to take, so you weren’t on edge. I think, as a GM, when he came around, sometimes maybe people were a little nervous. I’m not sure. He’s got high expectations and I think he couldn’t take it out on us every day, so he would just either be happy or not happy. And if he wasn’t happy, you knew to stay away from Darryl.”
In short, the players won’t say it was all that bad. However, it was bright blue sky over the Saddledome.
And you can certainly expect different from acting GM Jay Feaster, who has been given the task to plan for the team’s future and will be given the full-time GM role if his vision is accepted by the ownership group and GM Ken King.
“It has to be fun,” Feaster said. “It’s a demanding business, and the one thing more fun than anything is winning.”
To make his point, Feaster has a plan he’d like to implement in the near future, which involves finding some form of an interview room for the media after games, so the dressing room stereo can remain on high volume.
“I want that music cranking after a win,” Feaster explained to the assembled media. “By the time I get down there, because you guys are in there, I never get to enjoy it. That’s one thing I want to figure out: How to enjoy it. I want the music going.”
Maybe then, the players will start singing a happy tune more often on the ice.