Steady as he goes

TODD SAELHOF and RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:59 PM ET


 Flames defenceman Rhett Warrener was described in many different ways during yesterday's off-day of the 2004 Stanley Cup final.

 "He's a tough, in-your-face guy," said teammate Martin Gelinas.

 Defence partner Andrew Ference labelled him as "gritty" before turning face to call him "a miserable old fart."

 The media, oft-snubbed by the colourful rearguard, would tend to agree with the latter characterization.

 "Snippy," said one unnamed scribe.

 "Darryl Sutter-esque."

 But Sutter himself chimed in with the only portrayal of Warrener that matters to the Calgary Flames.

 "I think Rhett's play speaks for itself," said the Flames GM-head coach of his prized off-season acquisition.

 "He's our Mr. Steady. He's the unsung player in our locker-room.

 "I think anybody who's followed our team all year knows that."

 For those who forgot, Warrener reminded them during an impressive Game 3 performance Saturday night at the Saddledome.

 With the Flames needing to re-establish a physical presence in this final series, the unsung Warrener paced a hard-hitting assault with an early open-ice hit on Ruslan Fedotenko.

 His teammates responded in kind to help short-circuit the usually productive Tampa Bay Lightning en route to a 3-0 decision.

 Then, to further show his commitment to the Cup drive, Warrener returned not once -- but twice -- from a suspected injury to his right arm.

 First, Vincent Lecavalier hit him in the neutral zone, sending him off the ice favouring the wing.

 Then later in the second period, Warrener left mid-shift again favouring the arm.

 But he returned without really missing a beat and played nearly 10 minutes of the final period.

 Of course, the 28-year-old doesn't want to miss out on avenging two previous unsuccessful trips to the final series with the Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres in 1996 and '99 respectively.

 "Until it's over and we win, it's the same as the other two times," spat Warrener when asked yesterday if he's enjoying this spring's ride with the Flames.

 "I'm fine," snorted Warrener when asked about his status for Game 4.

 "I only want to talk about (tonight's) game. We're not going to talk about other things."

 Yet it didn't stop his teammates and coaches from talking about him.

 "His passion for the game is so obvious to us when he speaks to us and with the way he plays," Ference said.

 "He is a grumpy old man. Until he wins that Cup, he's going to be bitter. He likes his Saskatchewan farm-boy pride. He doesn't want to be that happy-go-lucky guy.

 "But it's his style. A lot of it's in good fun. He knows what he's doing."

 Much to the delight of the Flames, he certainly does.


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