Sailing sea of read

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:04 PM ET


 Saying he was caught off guard doesn't even begin to describe Mike Commodore's reaction when he saw himself.

 No, it wasn't because the bushy-faced and big-haired Calgary Flames defenceman looked in the mirror.

 It was when he saw himself on the cover of this week's edition of The Hockey News.

 "Yeah, I saw that," the affable red-headed monster said with a grin. "When we got back in from San Jose, I went to the Mac's near the hotel I stay at to pick up a couple of things and on my way out the door, the guy who's there all the time asked if I'd seen The Hockey News. I told him no because I've avoided reading anything in the playoffs but he said, 'I think you should look at this one.'

 "I saw it and said, 'Are you kidding me?' Well, it was with a couple of extra words I can't say now but I had to pick up a couple for my parents.

 "It's funny. It's good."

 Jarome Iginla may be the on-ice face of the Calgary Flames, especially to anyone outside the Stampede City, but it's Commodore pictured on the cover along with the headline Great Red Hope.

 "There's good double meaning with the Great Red Hope, the red hair and the Sea of Red," said the media savvy defenceman. "It's probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me because I don't think I'll be on the cover of too many magazines."

 That's what happens when a team -- Canada's only surviving one at that -- reaches the NHL's Final Four. The attention increases immediately.

 Take the action in the Flames dressing room after yesterday's morning skate, for example. More than 60 accredited media members swarmed the room looking for a morsel from the city's hockey heroes.

 And that's just the beginning. The Flames had to clear an area of the upper loge seats to create working space for an extra 50 media members, an assembly that's now at 125, up from the 75 on hand in the second round. Any word from anybody can be turned into a story.

 Commodore, sitting at his stall, his skates still on while some of his teammates have trickled out for their afternoon rest, is always happy to chat.

 "I don't mind it. I don't mind yapping a little bit and don't mind the attention," he said. "I don't let it get to my head or anything like that. I could be digging ditches, so I enjoy it."

 Face it, a life playing in the NHL is a dream job to begin with. Throw in being on the cusp of making the Stanley Cup final and the excitement goes to another level.

 With it, especially at this time of year, comes plenty of intrusion.

 Imagine having cameras, microphones and tape recorders shoved in your face while you do your job.

 The Flames are loaded with players happy to oblige the media -- more than most clubs around the league -- and willing to serve as ambassadors for the game that's giving them so much.

 "You guys know Jarome, he'd talk forever if he could," Darryl Sutter said during the first-round playoff series with Vancouver.

 The same could be said about Craig Conroy, Robyn Regehr, Martin Gelinas, Andrew Ference, Chris Clark, Steve Montador and Denis Gauthier, just to name a few.

 Part of the willingness, said Iginla after a lengthy scrum yesterday, is the excitement of being this far in the playoffs for the first time in their careers.

 "We're enjoying it. It's the conference final," he said. "There is more coverage but you want the fans and the city to be excited about it.

 "We're hearing about more fans across the country and that's what you want. You want to play at this time and this goes with it."

 Stephane Yelle has been past this point and beyond a couple of times in his life but even he was caught off guard when he came to Calgary via a trade prior to last season.

 Having seen either himself or Chris Drury on the cover of a paper for a few consecutive days, he exclaimed at the time it was like the Stanley Cup finals every day in Denver.

 The attention and excitement in Calgary now is at another level, which means dealing with it all.

 "It's part of it. The playoffs is a grind and there is a lot of media coverage but it is part of the game," Yelle said. "You just try to stay focused as much as possible. It's part of the game and part of our job."

 Which is how Regehr looks at the extra attention.

 "It's never easy to deal with it," he said. "It's something we haven't been used to but as a professional you have to, to a certain extent. It can be a very important thing because that's how a lot of fans perceive the team and players, individually.

 "You have to keep everybody happy but still make sure you're doing the things you need to."


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