Hagman knows future with Flames in his hands

Calgary Flames' Niklas Hagman listens to an exercise being outlined at training camp. (Mike...

Calgary Flames' Niklas Hagman listens to an exercise being outlined at training camp. (Mike Drew/QMI AGENCY)

Steve MacFarlane, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:32 PM ET

Sacrifice means different things to different people.

To Niklas Hagman, it was saying sorry to his sweet tooth this summer.

The result was about five pounds in weight loss even while working on his strength and speed with fellow Finn Olli Jokinen’s personal trainer back home.

“That was pretty easy. Just dropped off candy and soda,” an upbeat and energetic Hagman said during a break in training camp action. “I just wanted to see if I could do it. I was eating some candy after every meal — just a little bit of candy. Not much — and then I just figured I was going to give it a try.

“The first week, two weeks, were tough.”

Not as tough as his last season with the Flames.

Posting 11 goals and 27 points in 71 games, Hagman dealt with a pre-season eye injury, then a mid-season groin problem, and capped off his year with a concussion.

He found himself on waivers in February, his morale at all all-time low and his misery at its peak.

“Last season was a huge disappointment for me. I know I can do better. During the summer I tried to work on things you can work on off-ice. I feel good and feel confident,” Hagman said, knowing full well his hockey future is in his own hands with his $3-million contract expiring after this season.

“Obviously, I’ve got to do well to make the team, but that makes the situation interesting.”

He’s off to a good start. Just two days in, he’s captured the attention of head coach Brent Sutter.

“He’s leaner. He’s got a more defined body now,” Sutter said. “Hags has got a tremendous attitude. He looks great. He’s skating better than I’ve seen him skate.

“When Hags is at the top of his game, he’s a very good player. That was the discussions both Jay and I had with him, and he took it to heart.”

Those heartfelt discussions cleared the air between them all. The Flames found out what Hagman was going through as he struggled to find a role that fit, and Hagman understood what the Flames wanted from him.

“It was an eye-opening experience to talk with Brent and Jay. It’s something I should have done earlier,” Hagman said, not wanting to get into specifics of the conversations.

“If we wouldn’t have done that and I would have come back (to Calgary) again, I don’t know how I would have felt.”

Right now, he’s feeling great about re-joining a team that’s fairly deep up front.

“I’ve got no problems coming back. I’m excited,” Hagman said. “Hopefully, I’ll play well enough that they still want to keep me here for more years.”

That’s where his dedication this summer comes in. Because of the concussion he suffered late in March, he stuck around Calgary to recover. It gave him an early start to his training here before heading home.

“Once I got cleared to start practising, I practised a bit harder than I have ever done at that point (of the summer), because I had to push myself really hard after the season to see that I don’t get any symptoms or anything,” Hagman said.

“Back home, I paid a little more attention to my speed. I feel like I’ve lost a little bit of that quickness — kinda trying to get that breakaway speed back and create more chances out of skating fast.”

So far, it seems to have worked.

“He looks good on the ice,” said Sutter. “He’s lively and excited. He’s got his emotion there. It’s great.”


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