Moose loose in Cowtown

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 2:23 PM ET


 Notes, quotes and anecdotes from a Calgary/Vancouver series almost as entertaining off the ice as it is on it:

 HEDBERG IN THE CLOUDS: Exactly who, or what, the Calgary Flames are up against in backup netminder Johan Hedberg was the prime topic of conversation yesterday. Blessed with a far superior ability than Dan Cloutier to limit rebounds and play the puck, Hedberg is considered by most to be an upgrade. His 19-save performance Sunday was clearly a turning point in a series the Flames and their fans felt good about just 24 hours earlier.

 A large part of the hype surrounding Hedberg stems from the Moose Madness he sparked in Pittsburgh three years ago when the Manitoba call-up took the league and city by storm.

 "We both got called up at the same time and were staying in a hotel a couple miles from the rink," recalls Flames defenceman Andrew Ference, who roomed with Hedberg during the Pens' unlikely three-round odyssey led by the Swede. "There was an exit off the highway called Heidelberg and that was the road we lived on. Someone blacked out letters on the big exit sign with spray paint so it read Hedberg. It was crazy. The town was going nuts for him. It was his show. He was competing with Mario (Lemieux) and (Alex) Kovalev and (Jaromir) Jagr and for a guy named Hedberg to stick out of those names is something special."

 According to the Vancouver media and everyone who knows him, he's a special person, too, who loves to joke around with teammates and sing Kenny Rogers tunes.

 NO GUM, NO TAPE, NO TOUCHING: The elbows are coming up, the traffic in front of every player is increasing and now some are taking liberties. Not players but the media. A record number of reporters and cameramen storm into each team's dressing room before and after every game and practice, causing a problem that had never before been an issue: Gum stealing. The Flames, for example, have three pails of Dubble Bubble placed around the dressing room for the players. Local media types have long thought nothing of Dubble Bubble dipping. Unbeknownst to the gum grabbers, the offence could be punishable by a loss of credentials.

 According to assistant equipment manager Les Jarvis, a former cop, the media is forbidden to touch any items in the dressing room, including the three flavours of gum the players, coaches and media relish. So packed was the room Sunday, Jarvis took the unprecedented step of putting a lid on the gum pails to thwart sticky-fingered reporters and cameraman from helping themselves.

 "It's $10 a barrel," deadpanned Jarvis, who wouldn't reveal the club's Double Bubble budget. "It's never been a problem here but after the media comes in almost all the gum is gone these days."

 The man in charge of distribution for Dubble Bubble is a huge hockey fan, shipping off a pallet of 230 tubs of the stuff in exchange for an autographed Flames jersey. The joke is actually on the media as the gum is now two years old.

 MORE MOUTHY MEDIA TYPES: Spotted in the Vancouver Canucks dressing room at GM Place: A bottle of Listerine mouthwash next to the stash of fresh, sugar-free Dubble Bubble. On the whiteboard above is an arrow pointing to the bottle and a message from the players saying, "Media -- use this." According to Canucks media relations man Chris Brumwell, the players' No.-1 complaint about the media is their bad breath. Apparently, we need more gum.

 QUIPS AND QUIRKS: The last time the Calgary Flames were in the playoffs, Sun hockey writer Randy Sportak was selling beer in the stands while working full time as a writer/photographer at The Mirror, a now defunct weekly paper. Beer was $3.75 a can and he generally made $25-35 in tips a game, which is less than his travel per diem as a beat writer (although he's quick to point out not by much) ... Oleg Saprykin punctuated the pre-game warmup Sunday by firing a puck the length of the ice and into the empty Canucks net. Earlier in the warmup, Mike Keane tried the same thing but missed Calgary's net ... As hard-hitting and effective as the Power Ring is, there are obviously a few bugs to work out -- like when the opposition scores, it's not advisable to run a McDonald's ad declaring "I'm Lovin' It!" as happened twice Sunday.

 PARTING GIFTS: After "bruising the post" with his forehead, Brad May described the bump on his melon as a frontal lobotomy. "They put a computer chip in there so now I'm the bionic man," laughed May of the gash that required a number of stitches. "It looks like a caterpillar laid eggs on my head" ... Spotted on his way to practice in Vancouver last week: Brent Sopel driving his convertible Jaguar with the top down, bobbing his head to the cranked music and drinking a tri-coloured Slurpee ... After poking fun at a reporter's funky shirt, Robyn Regehr admitted he makes fun of Jarome Iginla's garb all the time. "But being from Saskatchewan, I pretty much make fun of anyone who is not wearing overalls," laughed Regehr. When Regehr was directed towards a splashy number worn by A-Channel's Rob Gibson, Regehr came up with a brilliant idea: "They should have a reality show where someone wears a shirt like that and has to try to go from one end of Saskatchewan to the other without getting beat up" ... Miikka Kiprusoff and Johan Hedberg played together in Kentucky four years ago: "I know all his weaknesses," smiled Kiprusoff. "And all our players know them now, too. But I'm going to keep them inside (the room)" ... You know it's the playoffs when nothing seems to make sense anymore. Yesterday, 'Sideshow' Mike Commodore attracted a large media scrum and Denis Gauthier respectfully declined comment of any kind.


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