CALGARY - Clint Malarchuk finally got his wish.
“When I played, I always wished I’d be traded to Calgary. I thought it would be very cool to play for the Flames,” Malarchuk said. “The next best thing to being a player for the Flames will be coaching for the Flames.”
On Friday morning, the Flames announced the addition of the longtime NHL puck-stopper as their goaltending coach. The club also hired stats whiz Chris Snow, who will serve as the director of video and statistical analysis.
Malarchuk tended twine in the NHL for more than a decade, including stints with the Quebec Nordiques, Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres. He was involved in one of the scariest situations in hockey history when his jugular vein was sliced by a skate blade in 1989, a life-threatening wound that required more than 300 stitches to close.
Now 50, Malarchuk’s coaching resume includes two seasons as bench boss for the West Coast Hockey League’s Idaho Steelheads, plus goaltending gigs with the Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Atlanta Thrashers.
Although Malarchuk had other options, he called the Flames’ job his “first pick.” And it’s tough to figure out what he’s more excited about — a chance to return to a city he called his off-season home for a good chunk of his playing career, or the opportunity to work with star netminder Miikka Kiprusoff.
“I’ve always been a big fan of Kipper,” Malarchuk said. “When I had (Roberto) Luongo in Florida, I was always telling him, ‘Watch Kipper. This is the guy.’
“I’m thrilled to be able to work with him, so I’m not too worried about Kipper and I think I can help him in little areas. For any coach, for any player, there’s always little things you can fine-tune.”
In addition to providing pointers to Kiprusoff and his sidekick, Malarchuk will also be tutoring Calgary’s puck-stopping prospects in the American Hockey League, major-junior loops and other developmental circuits.
His resume suggests that working with up-and-comers like Leland Irving and Joni Ortio is one of his strengths.
Malarchuk was the Panthers’ goaltending guru for four years, helping a young Luongo improve his win total every season. He spent two winters with the Blue Jackets, including the best campaign of Pascal Leclaire’s injury-plagued career and Steve Mason’s spectacular rookie performance in 2008-09. And last season, while Malarchuk was employed by the Thrashers during their last stand in Atlanta, Ondrej Pavelec established himself as a rising star between the pipes.
The Edmonton native is optimistic he can write another success story at the Saddledome.
“I played in the league. I was a starter. I was a backup. I played in the minors. I’ve been through injuries and I’ve been through a lot of personal stuff, as well,” Malarchuk said. “I played the game and I also know the technical part, so I think I can relate to these kids and these players.
“I’m confident that I can help. I’m not only confident, I’m super-excited.”
Snow, 29, is a former sports writer who spent the past four seasons as director of hockey operations for the Minnesota Wild.