Vernie loyal to Calgary

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:41 PM ET


 DETROIT -- Oh sure, Mike Vernon knows all about the high-octane Red Wings.

 He's wise to Stevie Y's leadership. To the Golden Brett's one-timer. Cheli's mean streak. Nick Lidstrom's stellar defence.

 Shanny's power game.

 He's well aware most people expect the Wings to extinguish Calgary in their Western Conference semifinal series.

 Even with as much inside knowledge as anyone out there, the man who backstopped both the Flames and Wings to Stanley Cup crowns won't write off his hometown team that quickly.

 "It's playoffs, everybody has a chance," Vernon said on the eve of the series between two of his former clubs.

 "I know they're probably going into this as underdogs but being an underdog is probably not a bad thing because not much is expected of you. But the Calgary Flames are going to give the Red Wings a lot of trouble.

 "The big key will be goaltending and the discipline factor will have to come in -- (the Flames) can't take the penalties like they did last series because if they do, Detroit's powerplay is a little stronger.

 "If they play very disciplined, keep their speed up, keep playing physical, they have a chance. Detroit is an older team that doesn't like to get hit that much.

 "Just don't make it easy for them and then it could be an interesting series.

 "If not, it'll be over very quickly."

 Of course, Vernon's ties to the Flames are a little tighter than the Wings.

 "C'mon, I'm cheering for Calgary. I'm still a Calgarian. I just played for the Red Wings. I live here and have season tickets," he said.

 "Detroit was good, everything was fine. (Wings GM) Kenny Holland and

 I still talk and we'll probably golf when they get up here and

 Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch were great to me. "I was at the sixth game (of the series win over Canucks) and then went to the seventh game in Vancouver. I was out of town before that but I had to be there because it was good hockey.

 I missed my sister-in-law's birthday party because of Game 6," he added. "And I'm not in the good books. I'm still in the Chateau Bow Wow."

 But what's transpired in the Stampede City is worth it.

 Flames fever is gripping the city unlike anything seen since, well, since the 1989 Stanley Cup run, a party that needed plenty of Vernon's heroics.

 "It's important this team stays here," he said. "I've got young kids, three boys, and they want to go to Flames games.

 "You go out on the town and hear kids talking about hockey and who their favourite player is and that's good to see. We haven't seen that for a while.

 "They have created a lot of new fans because of this, the playoff round and the year they had."

 Naturally, the excitement is about Calgary's amazingly quick turnaround under Sutter's tutelage.

 Vernon says he's not surprised, having played for Sutter in San Jose.

 "I said as soon as Calgary signed him that he'll turn this team around," he said. "He did it in San Jose, changed the chemistry of the team, picked up some players. Here, he's had more input because he's the general manager also. He knows the kind of player he likes and he went out and got those guys.

 "This is definitely Darryl's team."


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