To the Calgary Flames and their fans, the word has taken on a dual meaning this off-season.
On the ice, 2013’s trade-deadline departure of franchise face Jarome Iginla to chase a championship in Pittsburgh (and now Boston) stripped the club of its long-serving captain and signaled a roster rebuild. Scan the Flames’ personnel and see a daunting reconstruction that parallels a much more far-reaching one.
Late June’s flooding waters took their toll on Alberta. The Flames’ Saddledome was ruined below Row 8, submerging the JumboTron control centre and destroying the dressing rooms in the process. The home of veteran Flames forward Matt Stajan and his wife, Katie, sat vacant, water creeping towards it.
“We were pretty lucky. We were two blocks from the area that had to be evacuated, so we were very fortunate,” Stajan says. “We were here in Toronto, and you just hear the rumours that a big storm is going to hit. You turn on the TV, and you see it on basically every channel. There’s nothing you can do. You hope that your house is okay, but things like that happen.
“The storm we had here in Toronto (in July), you get a little damage – and we did at our place – but after being out there and seeing what happened in Calgary, what happened (in Toronto) is nothing.”
Stajan was born in Mississauga, Ont., and drafted by the Maple Leafs 57th overall in 2002. And although he and his wife fly back and forth between Toronto and Calgary in the off-season, Stajan considers Calgary home. Perhaps even more so now that he attended his first Stampede this summer.
“It’s very Calgary. You put on your cowboy hat and your cowboy boots and you fit right in and have a good time. You go to a rodeo, watch the chuck wagons. It’s a lot of fun,” Stajan smiles.
Fun might be rare commodity come winter, however. Odds maker Bodog gives Calgary the second-worst shot at claiming the 2014 Stanley Cup at 100 to 1 (Florida is a longer shot at 150 to 1), and even that might be generous.
In addition to Iginla, blue line rock Jay Bouwmeester departed in the spring, and 36-year-old Miikka Kiprusoff’s expected retirement leaves a question mark in goal. The team is loaded with youth and inexperience — not a bad thing long-term — but has yet to name a captain to replace Iginla.
We have our suspicions who will be the Flames’ next captain. So does Stajan.
“I have an idea, but it’s not for me to say. No matter who it is, all the older guys have to bring their leadership to training camp right from the get-go,” Stajan says. “We’re going to have a lot of young guys. You can never depend on one guy to do it all. A lot of us veterans need to do a job – be ourselves but be good leaders. We need to show the young guys the way.”
Stajan can play a significant leadership role in 2013-14, both in and out of the Saddledome, which should be restored in time for September’s preseason.
Through his efforts with the Alberta Children’s Hospital and Ronald MacDonald House, among charitable organizations, Stajan earned the Ralph T. Scurfield Humanitarian Award for his dedication to community service. The Flames turned around and nominated him for the NHL’s Foundation Award.
On the ice, Stajan had his most productive season since arriving in Calgary as part of the Dion Phaneuf trade in 2010.
The 29-year-old scored five goals and 18 assists in 43 games last year, five more points than he had in 61 games in 2011-12. Stajan responded well to his team’s adversity, reserving a downward trend in his scoring.
As devastating as it was to see the damage wrought by the flood, Stajan says, the fight of the Alberta people and the willingness of volunteers was even more impressive.
“That whole area, that whole province, has really come together. It’s unbelievable the way everyone’s come together to fix it up and make things better,” Stajan says. “It’s still ongoing, and it will be for a couple years.”