Oleg Saprykin is anxiously awaiting an end to the NHL lockout so he can get back to playing hockey. And so he can get acquainted with his new teammates.
That includes the Great One.
Possible coach-in-waiting Wayne Gretzky is on Saprykin's get-to-know list after the former Flame was dealt last August to the Phoenix Coyotes along with Denis Gauthier for Daymond Langkow.
"No ... I don't know all the people in the organization but I'm looking forward to it," Saprykin said yesterday with a telling grin.
"But of those I've met there, the people are nice."
But Saprykin knows it won't be easy playing on another team, especially after all the memories generated by the Flames' magical run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.
"It's still hard to hear people saying, 'What about that goal and this goal?' " said Saprykin, referring to the controversy in Game 6 when an apparent go-ahead goal by Flames star Martin Gelinas was waved off.
"People recognize me and they're still mad -- and it brings back again all the memories of the run. It's hard to accept the loss but it happened."
Saprykin, the newly sworn-in Canadian citizen, is thankful for the opportunity afforded him by the Flames, who made him a first-round pick -- No. 11 overall -- in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.
"Those guys treated me well here in Calgary -- I'm thankful for that and have nothing against anybody here," said Saprykin, preparing to move his belongings from Seattle and Calgary to Arizona.
"It's a business and everybody has to understand that everybody does what's best for the team."
In 187 career games -- all with the Flames -- Saprykin sniped 29 goals and collected 76 points.
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DAY OFF: The NHL and NHL Players' Association took Canada Day off but will resume labour talks Monday in New York with the end finally in sight. With lawyers on both sides drafting the agreement as talks progress, it's a matter of days before a tentative deal will be announced.