Sloan big hit at 'Dome

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

After 406 games in the minors, it took Tyler Sloan seven minutes into his NHL debut to make a major impact.

Not just on Daymond Langkow's chest but on hockey highlight reels for years to come.

On a night when all eyes were on Alex Ovechkin, it was the 27-year-old Calgarian who had the 'Dome buzzing early when the 6-foot-3, 205-lb. Washington Capitals defenceman caught Calgary Flames' Langkow with his head down as he crossed the blueline.

Delivering one of the hardest, most spectacular hits the NHL has seen this year, the rookie Sloan sent the Flames centre flying, lifting every one of his new teammates off the bench with the blast.

Seconds later, everyone in the building did followed suit, as Langkow's teammate Rene Bourque charged in to goon the former Calgary Royals star who went undrafted at every level. When the dust settled and Sloan had taken two punches to the back of the head, Bourque was assessed 19 minutes in penalties for -- amongst other things -- instigating while wearing a visor. Sloan mistakenly went to the penalty box before being told he was free to leave.

"I expected them to come after me, but nine minutes? I've never seen that before," said Sloan of the sequence that will have the city talking today. "I knew right away, though, I wouldn't be playing the next nine minutes."

While the super-sized powerplay didn't sit well with fans, the reality is officials sent the right message that those who dish out spectacular-yet-clean hits shouldn't always be subjected to attacks. (See Dion Phaneuf).

As it turned out, the Capitals weren't able to build on their 1-0 lead, firing just three shots on net during the man-advantage and prompting an adrenaline-pumping ovation from the crowd at its conclusion. Of Sloan's 50 friends and family members who cheered the penalty kill that eventually fuelled a 2-1 Flames comeback win were his parents, Gayle and Fred, as it meant their son would see the ice again.

As reported in yesterday's Sun, it was a night of mixed emotions, as their proud moment was missed by Tyler's sister Tara who died in a highway rollover eight years ago. She was a five-time national swimming champion whose life was lost mere months before she was about to realize her dream by participating at the Sydney Olympics.

Tyler said how much she would've enjoyed her brother's realization of a dream.

Somewhere, they promised, she would be watching.

"I said a little prayer before the game, was thinking about her and asked for her help and protection," Sloan said.

"Overall, it definitely was a dream night, other than the loss. Now I know for sure I can play in this league."

Rewarding Sloan's perseverance in the minors was coach Bruce Boudreau, a career minor-leaguer himself who saw fit to pair the former East Coast Leaguer with former Hitmen stud Jeff Schultz. In a high-paced game that saw plenty of scoring chances, Sloan didn't look out of place. In a penalty-filled game, he played nine minutes and was plus-1.

Called up due to a groin injury to veteran Tom Poti, Sloan's future with the big club is day-to-day. And while he may be back in Hershey before he fully comes to grips with the emotion of debuting in his hometown, he made an impression on the coach.

In a classy move from a guy called up by the Maple Leafs so many times --he wore six different numbers for them -- Boudreau gave Sloan a pep-talk before the game.

"He's like any Canadian kid (playing at home) -- he's going to have his jitters," said Boudreau who made his NHL debut in his hometown of Toronto in 1977. "I told him to get a shot and a hit right off the bat. He played well, and that was a major-league hit."

And no one in attendance will forget it.


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