Don't count Ryan Walter among those surprised by the Calgary Flames Cinderella act in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs.
Walter, the former NHLer who currently works as a hockey analyst, was in Winnipeg as a speaker at the Hockey Manitoba awards luncheon yesterday and took time to share his views on a number of topics pertaining to the game of hockey.
Although he serves as a television analyst during the season for both the Flames and the Vancouver Canucks, Walter said he actually bought a ticket and took his two sons to Game 7 at GM Place.
"It was a fabulous series and this was the first time I've paid for a ticket since I got into the NHL (with the Washington Capitals in 1978-79)," said Walter, who is now 46. "It was spectacular. The energy in the building was unbelievable."
Since he broadcasts 17 Flames games during the season, Walter wasn't shocked when the Flames took Game 7 in overtime.
"Darryl (Sutter) has them playing the way they have to play," said Walter, noting the efforts of goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and captain Jarome Iginla in the series-clincher. "I was really happy for Calgary but disappointed for the Canucks because they are further along in the evolution and they needed to win that game."
Since the Canucks loss, there has been much talk of changing personnel, both on and off the ice.
One of the hottest topics of conversation around Vancouver these days is the future of Canucks president and GM Brian Burke, whose contract has not yet been renewed by Orca Bay ownership group.
"Everybody has sort of written Burkie off, but the longer this goes (without a decision) you've got to wonder if they will bring him back," said Walter. "I hope he is back. Some people get upset over his demeanor and personality, but I love it. He wears his heart on his sleeve. You know where he's coming from and when he says it, the whole world knows it. And if you look at his record over the past years, he deserves to be back."
Walter was in the broadcast booth with play-by-play man Jim Hughson on the night of the Todd Bertuzzi incident and was beginning to wonder if he was bad luck, since they did the broadcast when Marty McSorley struck Donald Brashear in the head with his stick.
"It was just an ugly, ugly thing," said Walter. "I've talked to Todd many times since and it has affected him eternally. He's very upset. He's a guy that lives on the emotion of the game. I think he'll put it behind him eventually, but he'll be tentative at first."
At this stage of the NHL's negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement with the players association, Walter believes fans should brace for a long and drawn-out lockout but remains hopeful a deal can still be reached before a work stoppage.
As for the future of hockey in Winnipeg, Walter couldn't predict whether or not the NHL might return once a new deal is finalized.
"Once you lose an NHL team, it's really hard to get it back," said Walter. "When I played, millionaires owned the teams and now you have to be a billionaire. In that scenario, do I think they come to Winnipeg? Maybe, if there is a billionaire here who wants a tax write-off. But in a new scenario where there is cost certainty and expense certainty, who knows?"
Flames no shock to Walter
KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun
, Last Updated: 5:16 PM ET