Devil of a time for Oliwa

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:14 PM ET


 Krzysztof Oliwa has less than fond memories of Tampa's St. Pete's Times Forum.

 At the Forum, late in the 1999-2000 NHL regular season, the enforcer blew out his left knee while playing for New Jersey.

 That season, the Devils went on to the playoffs and all the way to claim the Stanley Cup -- without the Polish Hammer.

 "I wanted to play very bad but I just couldn't," said Oliwa, the 31-year-old Calgary Flames tough guy.

 "It was hard to watch. But at the same time, there was nothing to do about it. You just hope that one day you get another opportunity and you can be a part of it again."

 That second chance has come this spring with the Flames. Now, Oliwa can bring the experience of 2000 to the table, even though it was a rough ride that year in Jersey.

 The 6-ft. 5-in., 245-pounder underwent reconstructive surgery twice that season -- once to repair a broken right arm and the other time to fix the ligament damage in his knee.

 Later, just a couple days after winning the Cup -- on which Oliwa did get his name engraved because he played in 69 games during the regular season -- he was traded from the Devils to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

 Devils GM Lou Lamoriello informed Oliwa of the trade to Columbus only minutes after the team photo was taken to commemorate winning the Stanley Cup.

 "But just being a part of it the whole year and working hard three years before that (with the Devils) and seeing guys, how they did it, it makes you a better player and a better person and you can appreciate it more when you get there eventually again," Oliwa said.

 "It's a rough road to get to the Cup. You have to work hard and there's a little bit of luck at the same time. There will be things that go wrong. But at the very end, all that matters is if you win or you don't. Whether you play or not on a team that won, being a part of it is just one big plus."


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