October 21, 2011
Erixon shows little class
By ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Tim Erixon doesn’t believe Calgary Flames fans deserve an explanation for why he embarrassed the organization over the summer and forced the club to trade him.
Therefore, he deserved the chorus of boos that rained down on him throughout last night’s visit with the New York Rangers to the Saddledome.
Without having played a single pro game in North America, the 20-year-old Swedish defenceman waited until just before the summer deadline to inform the Flames through his agent that he didn’t want to play in Calgary.
The Flames were caught off-guard and thought it stunk. So did the rest of the hockey world.
The official excuse delivered via his agent: Erixon didn’t think young players like him would have a chance to crack the club’s veteran-laden roster.
Yet when given his first chance to explain his decision Thursday, he didn’t have the guts to come clean.
“I don’t really think I have to explain myself,” said Erixon while surrounded by a wall of journalists he later admitted he never expected.
“I know what happened and what the issues were. I’m just looking forward to playing with the Rangers. I thought my agent and Calgary would come to an agreement. It didn’t happen. Some things made us hesitate, and then they traded me.”
Yes, because they had to. Otherwise, the Flames would have lost Erixon’s rights for a paltry compensatory pick, which is about the last thing the Flames needed given how empty the coffers are when it comes to top prospects.
Indeed, Erixon is a top prospect — a player most knew would crack the NHL this season. He used that to hold the Flames ransom and force a trade.
“I had nothing against Calgary — it’s a great city, and everybody was good to me,” said Erixon, who spent two seasons in the Swedish elite league after being drafted 23rd overall by the Flames in 2009.
“It was never about the money. It’s just some small issues, and that’s all in the past now, and I’m just focused on playing with the Rangers.”
Asked before the game if it would be odd facing the team that drafted him, he shrugged with much the same disrespect he showed the club and its fans.
“No, just going to go out and play the same way — it’s just like any other day,” Erixon said before being informed he’d likely be booed.
“If they feel like they have to do that, it’s up to them. I don’t really care about that.”
Given that the terms and money offered by the Flames were as good as he would have received anywhere else, word is simply that the kid wanted to play in Manhattan like his father, Jan, did. However, he could have handled it a whole lot better and not left the Flames scrambling to come up with the deal for pre-season surprise Roman Horak.
For tips on handling himself with class, he sure could have learned from Rangers teammate Brandon Prust, who was all smiles Thursday despite returning to play a club that traded him not once but twice.
“I would never tell anybody not to sign here if they came and asked me — it’s definitely a great city and a great organization,” said Prust, who has emerged as a fan favourite in Manhattan, where his rugged style of play essentially made Sean Avery expendable earlier this season.
“I’m very thankful to the Flames organization — they gave me an opportunity, and I got my foot in the door here. But everybody has their decisions to make.”
Prust had every reason to be bitter about the way Flames then-GM Darryl Sutter gave up on him twice, but he was all smiles before going out and scoring a shorthanded goal against his old team Thursday night.
“The fans are great here, and I was always received pretty well here — I guess fighting had a little something to do with that,” said Prust, who was a huge favourite in the Flames locker-room and dined with his former teammates here Wednesday.
“I was excited to be traded back to Calgary and felt they figured they made a mistake and wanted me back and would make me a part of the organization.”
But not for long, which eventually worked to his advantage.
“I’ve been received well in New York — people like hard workers and grinders who like to fight,” Prust said.
“I had some good and bad times here — you always want more responsibility and opportunity and you have to work for that.”
Great attitude — something Erixon could learn from.
Eric Francis appears regularly as a panelist on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada