RALEIGH — If Elias Lindholm could do it all over again, he says now he probably wouldn’t.
In hindsight, the 24-year-old Flames forward suggested he wouldn’t lash back at the fan base that supported him for five years.
In an emotional return to Carolina last February, following the summer blockbuster trade that landed him in Calgary, Lindholm punctuated the Flames’ 4-3 win by mocking the crowd with the Viking clap that precedes the Hurricanes’ post-win Storm Surge.
“I don’t know if I would have done it again,” said Lindholm, who admitted after the game he was miffed at being booed both times he appeared on the jumbotron.
“But it just happened. That time I got some heat for the fans in Carolina after the trade because I didn’t want to sign there. They booed twice during the game, and then I went up to Dougie (Hamilton) there and we were hitting each other with crosschecks here and there at the end of the game. I was kind of fired up and went with the flow.”
While congratulating teammates after the game, the soft-spoken Swede known for controlling his emotions simply couldn’t, enthusiastically clapping his hands over his head in the crowd’s direction until he left the ice.
“I got one off my knee there and we got the W,” he said of a game in which he extended his point streak to 10 with a goal.
“We had a game in Washington before and lost very late, so we really wanted to win that game. A lot of emotions that game.”
Prior to his post-game antics, the story of the game was how all the principles in the trade from both sides found the score sheet, including Hanifin, who blasted the game-winner. To add to it, former ‘Cane Derek Ryan scored for the Flames, helping former ‘Canes coach Bill Peters get the win.
Fact is, Lindholm has truly never been the type to crave centre stage.
Yet, that’s where the fifth-overall pick from 2013 found himself Saturday at the Heritage Classic, where he was the Flames’ top-line centre between Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk.
He’ll continue to be in the limelight the next few days as he’s back in the city in which he made quite the stir last year.
He admits to having some nerves ahead of Tuesday’s game, unsure how the crowd will react to him.
“A little bit,” said Lindholm, who scored his team-leading seventh goal of the season in Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss at Mosaic Stadium.
“Obviously I spent a lot of years there. We got the first one out of the way last year. It will be a little different this year with the fans. We’ll see how they react.”
They most certainly reacted with surprise last year as Lindholm almost doubled all his career marks for goals (27), assists (51), points (78) and a plus-30 mark, while fitting in seamlessly on the right side of Calgary’s top line.
The six-foot-one, 195-pound veteran has picked up where he left off last year, with a start that has many convinced he’s the Flames’ most complete forward.
Coach Peters said as much last week before finally making good on his promise to try Lindholm as a full-time centre Saturday.
“A real complete player — you need guys like that,” said Peters, who often sends Lindholm over the boards first as part of one of the league’s best penalty-killing units.
“If you modelled your game after Lindy I think you’d be picking a good guy — plays in all aspects of the game, short-handed, power play, when we’re down one he’s on the ice, when we’re up one he’s on the ice. He’s a versatile guy who can take faceoffs on the right side, willing to be in the shooting lanes. Just a good all-around player.”
And, according to teammates, an all-around good guy, which is why his post-game celebration at PNC Arena surprised many.
“I liked it,” said Hanifin of the ‘Lindy Incident.’
“It’s good for the game when players do stuff like that. I think Lindy was just messing around and having fun. Me and him both had a great experience when we were there. We appreciate the organization. It’s a great city to live in.
“He was just having fun — that’s in his character and how he is.”