Flames firsts prove memorable

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:46 PM ET

On and off the ice, there are plenty of great stories about NHLers and their first games.

Calgary Flames call-up Lance Bouma got into his Saturday night. Veteran Steve Staios still remembers his with the Boston Bruins from the 1995-96 season.

“My first game was great. My second one wasn’t as good,” said the 37-year-old. “I was paired up with Ray Bourque, and we were playing against the Ottawa Senators. They were still sort of building. We beat them 3-0.”

His second game was even more memorable. For the wrong reason.

“The next game I played was an afternoon game, and we were playing against the Rangers at home in Boston,” he said. “There was a big buildup for it because of the all-star lineup they had. I couldn’t sleep the night before. I was so nervous for the game, I maybe slept a few hours.

“I’m standing there for opening faceoff and I’m looking. It’s like Messier, Leetch, Graves. This is unbelievable.”

Staios rimmed the puck into the Rangers end after the faceoff. Leetch picked it up behind the net.

“Leetch hit (Messier) with a sick pass, cross-ice right behind Bourque, and he went in on a breakaway,” Staios said. “The highlight was Messier going down and me skating after him. Sure enough, he buried it.

“That was 20 seconds into my second game. I thought, ‘Man, wow, that was fast.”

Brendan Mikkelson was paired with future Hall-of-Famer Chris Pronger in Anaheim when he finally got the call after a crushing loss in the minors on New Year’s Eve. His Iowa Chops had just rung in 2009 with a 6-0 loss in Grand Rapids.

“I just went to my room after the game I was so bitter,” Mikkelson recalled. “I’m pretty much asleep, and about 2:30 a.m. the phone rings. I see it’s our assistant coach — ‘Just a heads up, you might be called up. I’ll give you more details soon.’”

He flew to LAX the next day and suited up against the Philadelphia Flyers.

“It’s surreal in the sense that all you’ve ever wanted to do your whole life is play in the NHL,” he said. “Then you’re there.”

That ‘woah’ moment happened to Mikael Backlund that same season. He hadn’t even played his first WHL game yet — he was changing planes in Calgary on his way to join the Kelowna Rockets when he got word the Flames needed his services.

“I was shocked I got to play, but it was a good memory,” said Backlund, who hit the post on his first shift and then got to participate in the team’s skills competition that weekend before joining the Rockets.

Some guys have great travel stories, others have nightmare trips.

Brendan Morrison’s ride was cushy when he got the call from the New Jersey Devils.

“John MacLean demanded a trade out of New Jersey,” Morrison recalled. “I was in Albany, so that night I drove down. The next morning, it was me, Lou Lamoriello and two pilots on the owner’s private jet to Pittsburgh.”

It was a long haul for Curtis Glencross, who was recalled by the Ducks in 2006-07 just after his family came to visit him out east.

“We had a week homestand in the minors and my parents flew all the way to Portland, Maine,” said the Provost product. “The day they got in there, we went to the grocery store — we went to Costco — and loaded up the fridge. We had a game the next day at home in the minors, and I got a phone call at the pre-game meal. I got called up. We had to leave that day.”

A couple of three-hour flights later, they moved the party to Anaheim and watched Glencross score his first NHL goal on his second shift, while playing with future stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

“It’s one I’ll always remember. Nice to have your parents there,” Glencross said. “My aunt and uncle were there, too.”

Knowing his family would be there for his debut, Bouma was wearing a smile familar to the veterans in the Flames locker-room Saturday.

“I was the same way,” Glencross said. “It’s a childhood dream to play in the NHL and it’s kind of like, ‘Wow, I actually did it.’”


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