Feaster putting fun into Flames
STEVE MacFARLANE, QMI Agency
|With the acting title gone for Jay Feaster, the Flames GM wants his team to be tough to play on the ice but have fun off it.
There have been plenty of tweaks to the way things go down at the Saddledome since Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster stepped into the role — first as an acting manager, and now in the official capacity.
Among those previously banished traditions expected to make a return in years to come with Feaster at the helm are the father/son trips traditionally taken around the holiday season.
“I do believe in that,” Feaster confided during the 2010-11 NHL campaign after taking over for Darryl Sutter in late December, when the former boss was asked to resign. “That’s one of the things that I look at as part of the culture. Things I believe in.
“That’s something we’ll definitely discuss with (Flames president) Ken (King) going forward.”
Re-branding began for the Flames the moment they decided Sutter would no longer be the face of the franchise from a management perspective.
The kindler, gentler approach upstairs will not be mimicked on the ice, where Feaster wants the Flames to return to the kind of club Sutter built during his early days here.
But he doesn’t want to take away the fun.
The words father/son road trip haven’t been breathed around the Dome in nearly a decade, ever since the last one went so poorly — not off the ice, where the players and their pops had a blast in Phoenix and Dallas, but on it, where the team started an awful slide during that adventure.
They lost both games against the Coyotes and the Stars in late January 2003, winning just twice in a 14-game span that stretched nearly a month.
Since the idea wasn’t Sutter’s to begin with — he inherited the trip from head coach Greg Gilbert and GM Craig Button — the losing streak didn’t sit very well with him.
“We didn’t win, so we’ve never had one since. I remember Darryl saying that’ll never happen again,” said Craig Conroy, who has since moved into the upstairs offices as special assistant to Feaster, with a laugh a few months ago as he recalled the trip.
“True to his word, too, he didn’t do it.”
Rarely crossing their minds over the years since, the idea of perhaps participating in something like that again drew strong support over the final few months of this season when it was apparent there was a new, lighter attitude encompassing the Flames.
“It’s not gonna take away anything,” said Flames veteran defenceman Robyn Regehr. “You’re adding by doing something like that or a trip like that. You’re just adding to the experience of professional hockey — not just for yourself as players but especially for your dad or your parents.
“They’re put a lot of sacrifice into a lot of our careers. They put their lives on hold, or put on hold what they wanted to do, and they made a lot of sacrifices not just with finances but with time.”
Enjoying themselves amid the ups and downs of a regular-season is paramount to Feaster’s philosophy.
He wants them to enjoy the wins, quickly forget the losses and remember hockey is just a game they’re getting paid to play.
Bringing their dads into the equation only increases that feeling of excitement he wants the players to feel every time they step on the ice.
“Who are we kidding? We should have brought the moms,” Conroy added. “The moms probably do more.”