|Craig Hartsburg is returning to the NHL with the Calgary Flames. (QMI Agency File/Errol McGihon)
CALGARY - Asked to conjure up a Brent Sutter story from their time together as players, coaches or a combination of the two, Craig Hartsburg lets out a quick laugh.
It has to be fit to print.
“I don’t know if there’s one, but I used to just love his intensity and what he stood for (when I was) standing behind the bench when he was standing in front of me,” said the newest member of the Calgary Flames coaching staff, who taught Sutter during his last three years as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. “I’m really excited about standing next to him on the bench.
“Somebody in my family said,
‘I don’t know who’s going to have the biggest scowl, you or him.’ But my wife reminded me you are now the associate, you don’t have to scowl anymore.”
The Flames officially brought Hartsburg in as associate coach Monday, and right now, all parties are smiling.
Hartsburg’s experience in the NHL — as an assistant with the Minnesota North Stars and the Philadelphia Flyers, and as a head coach with the Blackhawks, the then-Anaheim Mighty Ducks and the Ottawa Senators — made him a top candidate in the Flames’ eyes as they set to fill vacancies.
That and his deep-rooted connection with Sutter.
On top of the Hawks connection, they played together in the 1987 Canada Cup and won gold coaching at the 2006 world junior tournament.
“I’ve always respected Craig a lot, the knowledge he has for the game,” Sutter said. “When we made our decision to go in a different direction with our staff, (experience) was the first thing that I was focused in on, and I discussed with (Flames GM Jay Feaster) that I wanted to have an experienced coach that was on board with our staff.
“Craig was the perfect fit.”
He’ll tend to the defence, but Sutter expects to be challenged by his associate as well.
“I didn’t want a ‘yes’ guy. I’m not looking for ‘yes’ people,” Sutter said. “Part of your staff is for your coaches to have their opinions and voice their opinions on things. My job as head coach is to be able to be a really good listener and take it all in and then put it together and make it work.
“Ultimately, at the end, I have to make the call on things, which I’m very comfortable in doing.”
That’s especially true now, with Hartsburg by his side.
Assistant Dave Lowry is still relatively new to the NHL ranks as a coach, having come over from the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen two summers ago. Former assistants Ryan McGill and Jamie McLennan were just as raw.
Now Sutter has a more veteran sounding board. And Hartsburg is prepared to challenge his boss.
There weren’t many arguments with Team Canada during their golden run in 2006, but the NHL is a different animal.
“Over the course of a year, I’m sure there’ll be some disagreements,” Hartsburg said with a laugh.
But both coaches believe that will only make them stronger.