Hair no more

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:16 AM ET

He made red wigs as popular as car flags and hard hats.

He attracted fans with his gregarious personality, wit, honesty and approachability.

Mike Commodore's fan club will continue to grow, only it will be based in Carolina.

The man with the big red hair was dealt yesterday to the Hurricanes for a third-round choice in today's NHL entry draft.

More than a few fans who fell in love with the jolly giant -- who only played 38 games for the Flames -- will be sad.

"I'm sad, too," said Commodore, who was in Las Vegas when he heard the news. "It sucks but that's how it goes."

Yet it is possible to be downcast and rejuvenated at the same time.

With the Flames, eyeball deep in d-men, Commodore would have had a tough time getting significant minutes.

In all reality, he was arguably eighth on the depth chart and teams don't often carry that many rearguards.

The 6-ft. 4-in., 225-lb. Fort Saskatchewan product knew there was a numbers crunch.

"I'm disappointed I'm leaving Calgary. I love the city and the organization's great and everything. At the same time, I'm excited," he explained.

"The most important isn't where I'm playing. I need an opportunity. I'm going to be 26 in November and it's time. If I'm going to establish myself as a full-time player, I need to do it right away and you just have to look at the numbers with the Flames ... it didn't boil down too good for me."

The funny thing is, he didn't realize that before receiving yesterday's news.

"I had absolutely no idea. Looking back now, though, I'm not surprised," he said.

"The Flames have lots of defencemen and you have to figure somebody had to be moved. It just wasn't in my mind at the time."

As for what lays ahead on Tobacco Row, he's not sure. Signed defencemen on the Hurricanes roster with significant NHL experience are Bret Hedican, Frantisek Kaberle, Niclas Wallin and Aaron Ward.

There is talk Glen Wesley will come back for another year.

Commodore, in the final year of a one-way contract that will see him paid $450,000 US, didn't want to read too much into the situation.

"I really don't know what is going on in Carolina, as far as who is signed and who's there for defencemen but I think I'm going to get an opportunity to play there and I'm looking forward to that," he said.

One thing is for certain, the Hurricanes know plenty about the man they've acquired. After all, he spent part of this past season in Lowell, Carolina's primary farm team shared with Calgary, as well as 37 games in 2003-04.

"I'm not real familiar with Carolina itself but I met their coaches and am familiar with all their players," Commodore said.

He won't be forgotten here.

Thanks to his open personality and recognizability, he became a fan favourite during the playoff run -- a career highlight in which he played 20 of 26 games.

Wading into the sea of fans gathered at the airport in the middle of the night when the team arrived from Tampa following its Game 7 loss to sign autographs left a lasting impression.

On the ice he made things happen, too, such as his hit on Derian Hatcher in the clinching Game 6 of the Detroit series, retribution for Hatcher's cheapshot elbow on Matthew Lombardi.

Heck, he even made the cover of The Hockey News with the headline, 'The Great Red Hope,' prompting the great -- and humbling -- line from his father Wayne: "That's where they put Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, not Mike Commodore."

But now, it's all over.

"Life isn't over," he said, partially trying to cheer himself up. "I'm excited to go to Carolina, don't get me wrong. It's going to be that good opportunity. It's NHL hockey, just in a different country. I don't think they have a Red Mile, though."


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