Pranks for the memories

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 2:24 PM ET


 SAN JOSE -- If you think you're having fun celebrating the Flames' improbable playoff march, just think about the players.

 Think about the laughs, think about the memories and think about the hijinks in a roomful of 20 brothers.

 As anyone who has played a team sport can imagine, there are plenty of priceless moments far from the glare of the media spotlight that have given the players plenty to chuckle about among themselves.

 They're the kind of moments they'll talk about years from now, even if they rarely become public.

 One of the most memorable scenes for many of the players involved a prank played on Game 1 overtime scoring hero Steve Montador, who arrived in the Flames dressing room that night a little tardier than everyone else thanks to post-game interviews.

 At the urging of Rhett Warrener -- Montador's new landlord -- the boys were quickly instructed to quell their revelry and sit quietly, awaiting Montador's entry.

 "When Monty came in, he was all screaming and everything and everyone was just sitting there quietly, drinking water," recalled Craig Conroy, laughing as he set the scene in San Jose's visitors room.

 "You could've heard a pin drop. He was like, 'what happened, did Sutter get mad or something?' Then, all of sudden, we all jumped up and everybody started cheering again. We got him pretty good."

 Shean Donovan said Montador was thoroughly confused by the brief episode, which only served to escalate the laughter that still follows talk of it.

 "Usually after that we'd be jumping all over him but he didn't even say anything," smiled Donovan. "It would've been better if he said something. He just turned around and started taking off his equipment."

 Montador obviously remembers the evening well, for many reasons.

 "I came in and was pretty excited but when (I saw they were all quiet) I just put my gloves in my stall and sat down, tried to catch my breath," said Montador, whose club has thrived on mustache-growing contests and various other team-building projects.

 "A few seconds later, the guys started cheering. I didn't know how to react. I knew right away it was Rhett (Warrener) who set that one up.

 "It's a long year, lots of stress and ups and downs and if you can realize when you need to be ready and focus for games and also have a lighter side, it's a great attribute and I think our team recognizes stuff like that."

 Another priceless moment went virtually unnoticed until replays of the Game 7 overtime celebration in Vancouver were seen by the players.

 "The funniest thing so far was that night in Vancouver -- Chuck Kobasew was so emotional he went to jump on the pile, the pile shifted and he landed right on the ice," laughed Conroy.

 "We watched it about 10 times the next day."

 And poor ol' Chucky is reminded about it daily at least that many times.

 "We give it to him pretty good," confirmed Dave Lowry.

 Conroy's introduction of the green hard-hat award after wins has been well-documented this season but the gang's sacred cheer that follows its post-game presentation has been kept under wraps, for obvious reasons.

 "It's just a stupid cheer -- it's a little rude," shrugged Donovan. "It was an old Argos football cheer that I brought in halfway through the year. Rhett was the one who started saying it after the hard hat was awarded and he's the one who leads the cheer."

 Another cheer that hasn't quite caught on -- but is nonetheless a source of great laughter in the room -- comes from colourful Finn Ville Nieminen.

 "Niemo stood up one day and screamed 'One bus, 20 steering wheels,' " recalled Conroy, squishing his face at the silliness of it. "He got such a reaction he uses it almost non-stop.

 "That's his trademark."

 Roman Turek said celebrations can help make him and everyone else associated with the team feel included.

 "Guys have been singing afterwards all year but in the playoffs it's getting louder," he said. "You can tell everybody is so excited and happy after a game."

 The four-sentence chant is every bit as juvenile as those recited by high school football teams. Still, it's a post-game rallying cry the players embrace wholeheartedly.

 "A lot of the things we do, people on the outside wouldn't understand because most of them have never been involved in a team sport like this," said Lowry.

 "It's important team-building. That's why some of us are going to have such a hard time in the real world.

 "Can you imagine us (trash-talking) in an office cafeteria the way we do in here? As they say, 'When I grow up ...' Well, sometimes it takes some people a little longer to do that."

 And there's certainly something to be said about that.

 "The funniest thing? I would have to go with Chucky missing the pile," added Lowry.

 "But we're not done yet ..."


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