Craig Anderson is back in Calgary this week, returning to the city and organization that first drafted him into the National Hockey League.
But Flames fans may not remember Anderson ever being a part of their organization. That’s because when he was property of the Flames, his name was Craig Andersson. A North American goalie, with a Swedish last name.
As Anderson explains, putting the extra “S” in his name was his trademark as a teenager.
“It wasn’t a misspelling,” he says with a laugh. “When I was in the sixth grade, we went over to Sweden for a hockey tournament. My heritage from my dad’s side is Norwegian/Swedish. So we did the whole jersey swap with a team from over there and you stay with a family and it was a cool experience. And coming back from that tournament, it was just a kind of silly thing we did with hockey jerseys. It was kind of a nostalgia thing where I threw the extra “S” on there – like a memento from the tournament we had over there and a reminder of the good time we had. It just ended up sticking with me all through junior and into my first year as a pro.”
When Anderson arrived in Calgary – as the Flames third round pick in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft – he participated in the club’s rookie tournament. He was given the No. 60 and on the back, his name plate said “Andersson”.
He was returned to his junior club in Guelph, where he kept the extra “S” on his name during a stellar career in the Ontario Hockey League. He was finally forced to drop the Swedish spelling of his name when he made it to the National Hockey League as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks a couple of years later.
“It was never legally done, so the National Hockey League stepped in and said that the name on the back of the jersey has to match the name you sign on the contract, ” explains Anderson. “So it was a youthful kid thing that never really went away.”
Anderson’s time in the Flames organization didn’t last too long. After two years, he couldn’t come to terms on a contract and he decided to re-enter the draft in 2001. A big part of his decision was based on the fact that Calgary had undergone a significant management switch during his time there. He was drafted by Al Coates and his scouting staff, but they were promptly dismissed a few months after Anderson was selected. A new regime, led by Craig Button took over, and they quickly made goaltender Brent Krahn their first-round pick in the following NHL draft. In the mind of Anderson, the writing was on the wall for him in Calgary and he decided to re-enter the draft after failing to come to terms with the Flames.
“The management that had drafted me had all been fired and moved on or released. A new regime came in and I didn’t feel like we came to terms on both sides,” he says. “Any time that the people who drafted you aren’t there any more, you feel like you have to go make a good first impression again. And then they drafted a goalie in the first round the year after that. I felt my opportunity there wouldn’t be great and it just didn’t end up working out.”
He does, however, fondly recall hearing the Flames brass calling out his name with their third-round choice in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. Having just celebrated his 18th birthday, being drafted by an NHL team vindicated his decision to forgo an NCAA education and choose the major junior route in Canada.
“Just before I was drafted, I was thinking about going the college route, but then I ended up going major junior halfway though the year,” Anderson recalls. “I ended up getting drafted by Calgary and it was really cool. I was thinking I could be sitting in a junior room in the U.S. league hoping for a college deal, but instead I was sitting in the Calgary Flames dressing room for training camp. It was kind of a cool experience, knowing I had made the right decision to go major junior.”
But most people don’t associate Anderson with the Flames because he never actually played a game for them. He remains thankful to the organization for originally drafting him and says he harbors no bitterness for the way things played out here.
“When you’re 18 years old, it’s kind of an exciting time for a young player in his career to have his name called at the draft and put the jersey on and go through the whole draft day experience. When I first came in there was rookie camp there in September. I got sent back to junior, but it was a good experience,” he says. “I don’t think there was any hard feelings at all. I really don’t think the new management guys knew who I was. And for me, I took my chances – I had a pretty good year in my last year in juniors – and thought I would roll the dice. I ended up doing okay with the gambling.”