SUN Hockey Pool

Horak draws praise from teammates

Flames forward Roman Horak skates in a game against the Avalanche at the Scotiabank Saddledome in...

Flames forward Roman Horak skates in a game against the Avalanche at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alta., Oct. 26, 2011. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:29 PM ET

CALGARY - Looping on the sports channel highlights every half-hour or so, there were plenty of opportunities for Calgary Flames rookie Roman Horak to check out his first NHL goal over and over again.

Who could blame him if he did?

But Horak may be one player who is as nice and humble as he appears. He says he might have seen the replay once on the tube before flipping the channel.

“I’m not really a big fan of myself on TV,” said the 20-year-old Czech Republic product, who scored in the first period of Wednesday’s 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche. “I don’t like to watch myself.”

It was worth watching as the 6-foot, 170-pounder fought off a check and somehow kept enough control of Alex Tanguay’s pass to stick a backhander under the crossbar as he fell to his butt on the ice.

Tanguay scooped up the puck during the celebration and handed it over his teammate. It’s now with the organization, which will get it framed as a souvenir for Horak.

“I gave him the puck by the bench. I know he was very excited. He was saying between periods that he’s still very excited and he couldn’t control himself,” Tanguay said. “I said, ‘Congrats — use the adrenaline to do you some good.’ We all like when we have adrenaline rushing through our body — you’ve just got to stay focused, keep your mind on the game …

“That’s what he did. He kept his mind on the game and got another big assist for us in the second period.”

Assisting on Lee Stempniak’s go-ahead goal in the second period, Horak had his first multi-point game in the NHL.

Feelings among the Flames are that many more of those could come over time.

“Absolutely. He’s a good kid — he’s a smart kid. He wants to learn every day. He’s asking questions about what can he do to be a better player,” said Flames fellow centre Olli Jokinen, who has a theory that both he and Finnish netminder Miikka Kiprusoff may have played against Roman Sr. during a season Horak’s dad played in their homeland. “It’s great to see a young guy that wants to learn and works hard every day.

“He’s only going to get better.”

They can’t verify the fact — and a quick check seems to indicate both were in North America when Horak Sr. played in Finland — but both the now-35-year-old Kiprusoff and 32-year-old Jokinen remember the way they felt as young players joining veteran NHL dressing rooms.

“I know how they look at us — they think we’re so old,” Jokinen said. “But we feel young.”

Horak, who was born in 1991, doesn’t play like he’s that young.

“He’s been a good surprise story,” Jokinen said. “I didn’t know much about him before camp started, but he’s making a good case here to stay here all year.

“He’s gonna have a bright future.”

Studying hard, Horak is trying to ensure that.

“He wants to learn,” Tanguay said. “I know he’s very excited to be in the NHL. Once you get your foot in the door, you don’t want to let go. You want to walk right in.

“That’s what he’s trying to do. He’s doing good.”

And his teammates are happy to help a kid as nice as him succeed.

“I’m really happy for him. He’s such a good player. I think he’s actually a little under-rated,” said Flames newcomer Lee Stempniak, his road roommate. “Extremely nice. Really respectful with everyone. Just tries to do the right thing.

“It’s great to see someone like that that has the talent he does, too.”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane


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