Welcome to Cowtown: New Flames trio feeling the excitement in Calgary

Ryan Leslie caught up with Calgary Flames forward Jonathan Huberdeau, to discuss how easy of a transition it's been for him to get to know his new city and teammates, and why he's excited to work for reigning Jack Adams Award winner Darryl Sutter.

CALGARY — Long-known to prefer shovelling manure over shanking sand shots, Darryl Sutter took to the mic at the Flames golf tourney dinner Wednesday for the briefest of messages.

“Hit and hope,” were his only words of advice for golfers, before essentially dropping the mic to leave a surprised Brad Treliving alone on stage to provide entertainment.

Hope certainly abounds in the market, thanks to Treliving’s ability to dance around two monumental departures by adding a trio of formidable replacements.

Those three newbies arrived in town over the last handful of days, and the outpouring of support they’ve received ever since touching down has them understanding just how much excitement there is in Calgary.

“I’m seeing it,” said Jonathan Huberdeau, who said it was mere minutes after deplaning at YYC International that he started being recognized and approached. “In Florida that wouldn’t really happen. 

“It hasn’t been bad, actually. I went to Costco and did a little Costco action and didn’t get recognized that much there, so it’s been good.

“People are respectful here. Everybody is excited for the year. Obviously for them they loved the two star players (Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, as if anyone needed reminding) and replacing them with us they’re just as excited. It’s a new chapter for us and I think you can tell the city is excited, and we’re excited as well.”

MacKenzie Weegar, who was included in the massive package for Tkachuk, intensified that fervour Wednesday when he opened his tenure in town with a bold proclamation.  

“Coming from Florida on a good team, and then coming here, I’d say we’re a better team than Florida is,” said the versatile defenceman, before adding that he is in talks with the team with hopes of signing an extension soon.

“There’s lots of excitement, I think.”

Despite a haircut that had Huberdeau raving about how much better his longtime pal looked, Weegar has been recognized and welcomed by fans since the day he arrived. 

“I went to the mall on the first day and lots of fans were coming up and saying how excited they were,” said Weegar, who said his new teammates have been equally as hospitable.

“It’s a nice feeling and a nice greeting from them.”

Nazem Kadri, whose free agency signing last month is considered the cherry on top of Treliving’s summer shopping, said he hadn’t had much time to mingle with the public, but was a huge hit at the tourney.

“I’m eager to be back home in Canada and be supported by the city of Calgary and the passionate fans of the Flames,” said Kadri, whose whirlwind summer included a Stanley Cup party in his hometown of London, Ont. 

“They’ve embraced me so far, and I can’t wait to show him what we’ve got.

“There’s been a buzz around the team all summer, since Brad had a very active summer. I think we brought in some great players to try to make the next step.”

Kadri’s rugged style should make him a coaching and fan favourite, but he still has plans to endear himself in other ways.

“I might have to purchase a cowboy hat,” he chuckled. “I heard that’s a thing, a white cowboy hat around here. I guess that’s a mainstay. I just love the culture.”

A tight-knit team now looks to grow even tighter by way of a camp that will go a long way toward figuring out who fits in where. 

“I’m excited because the guys are excited — that’s probably the best part,” said Treliving, who joked that the last part of his summer was far more enjoyable than the first half. 

“I always say the players know first who the good players are. They know they’ve added some really good players.”

The three newbies are indeed pivotal pieces for a Flames team that won its division with 111 points, yet has bolstered its ranks on the blueline and up the middle.

“I think we have a great team,” said Huberdeau, a left winger whose 115 points tied him for second in the league with Gaudreau.

“Our defensive core is great. We have a big team. A great goalie. Two goalies. ... We added Naz too. We have a great top 6. We’re a checking team. I’m excited to see what we’re going to do.

“This year I think we can believe and go get a Stanley Cup right away.”

The big story in training camp will revolve around how fast the team can start creating chemistry between new teammates.

“In order to have a great season we have to get off to a great start and we have a nice homestand to start the season, so that’s something we can take advantage of,” said Kadri, whose club plays nine of its first ten games at home. “The sky is the limit.

“I think we’ve got a team that can certainly contend, and that’s ultimately the final decision of why I came here.

“I like the pieces, I like the guys, and getting to know them I like them even more.”

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