Easy to 'C' new attitude

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:06 AM ET

CALGARY - In the middle of the Flames locker-room, where laundry baskets and the media have generally taken up space, now sits a large Flaming 'C'.

Stitched into the carpet this summer, the four-foot wide trademark is symbolic of the fact no matter what transpires in the room or in the standings -- and no matter how many slouched scribes inadvertently traipse all over it -- the franchise will endure.

"When the lights are off here at night, there's no other light on in that room except the one over that logo," explained head coach Brent Sutter of the new addition, complete with spotlight overhead. "I'm a big believer in that. That logo and the front of that jersey means the world to you."

For the first time in nine years, the Flames will open the season without Darryl Sutter overseeing everything inside the room and out.

Instead of being an organization shaped by Darryl's autonomous rule, the focus is now on working together as a team. Not just on the ice but off it, as well.

In that vein, Brent Sutter collaborated with GM Jay Feaster, president Ken King and the owners to come up with several dressing room renovations aimed entirely at changing the culture of a team that forgot how to have fun at the rink until Darryl was ousted last Christmas.

"It's about advancement," said the third-year coach.

"We want this to be a great place to be. I think it was before, but we've added more in terms of serving the needs of the players more."

An expanded players lounge now includes several computers, allowing players to casually surf the web or even tap into the team's innovative Pucks System that enables them to see every shift they've played the last three years.

Down the hall sits a massive new video room, allowing the team's new video team to make even more use of its ever-expanding systems for players, scouts and management.

The head coach's office has also been modified significantly, allowing Sutter to sit down with players, owners or other coaches in a private setting for the first time.

"We'd be sitting in the head coach's room and someone would walk right through because it was the only way to get to the assistant coaches' room," said a chuckling Sutter of the old setup. "Privacy is really important, especially in the head coach's room. That door is always open to the players, and I want them to feel good about coming in."

Mark Giordano said the atmosphere that improved the last half of the season is even more conducive to success.

"The changes are definitely not insignificant," said the defenceman about the renos. "They're all geared towards keeping us together, and that's the way it should be -- we should all be good buddies in here hanging out. Little things like these help out, and overall, I think guys do care about one another and are buds."

Like every other player, Giordano welcomed the arrival of the floor logo: Even if the media schleps hardly noticed.

"We don't ever step on the logo, but we're worried about you guys doing it," said Giordano with a laugh just as several cameramen trampled on it.

"It's more of a respect thing -- every team I've ever played on had that."

After years of having Darryl Sutter cast a pall over the organization by running it single- mindedly, management is now doing exactly what they want the team to do: Work together.

"I want this to be about everybody," rybody," said Brent, whose sports psychology department has also been bolstered.

" This was a discussion amongst owners, Ken, Jay and myself about what we wanted to do to change things. If we're going to have a different culture, we need to change the dynamics around that. (Senior VP and assistant GM Mike Holditch had input and (special assistant to the GM Craig) Connie (Conroy), too. We asked what other dressing rooms have and tried to put it all together so it brought change."

And so, no matter how dark some days may feel down at the Saddledome after a loss or two, that solitary light will continue to shine down on the dressing room floor, where the Flaming 'C' will remain the one constant around which everything else revolves.

"It's about feeling good about yourself and your teammates and trusting every-body," added Brent of the new attitude.

"Win or lose, we're all in it together, supporting guys through it all."

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca On Twitter: @ericfrancis

Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.


Videos

Photos