It may not be a big secret anymore, but hockey fans in Omaha, Nebraska shouldn’t expect to see the gem of the Calgary Flames prospect pool in the AkSarBen jersey of the new Flames AHL affiliate anytime soon.
Dion Phaneuf is accomplishing everything he’s set out to do this training camp, first on the list – making the cut. Always with a modest demeanor, Phaneuf has stated time and time again that his goal was to take the camp one day at a time, giving his best, and working hard for his new boss.
The adjustment has been significant, but something that the native of Edmonton, Alberta has prepared well for. Phaneuf, a veteran of four junior seasons, three training camps and two World Junior Championships, feels that he’s well-prepared for any adjustments that need to be made, despite not only the faster pace, but his first look at the rule changes as well.
“It’s a very quick game,” admitted Phaneuf after Calgary’s road loss in Edmonton to kick off their preseason exhibition games. “Any time you make a step up from junior to this level, it’s definitely huge.”
It’s a jump that many feel should have occurred last season. Signed before the September 15th deadline in 2004, Phaneuf spent the season with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League due to the NHL lockout, the first league in professional sports to lose an entire season due to a self-imposed work stoppage.
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Phaneuf himself is unsure of the fate that would’ve held him had there not been an NHL lockout that saw no on-ice action in 2004-05.
“You never know, that’s in the past,” said Phaneuf. “All I can worry about right now is this training camp and playing well each and every day to give myself the best opportunity to making the next step.”
And although he claims he hasn’t taken any criticism for it yet, Phaneuf will be trying to give himself the best opportunity in making the next step with a visor. Mandatory in the Canadian Hockey League, Phaneuf has opted to keep it on for training camp, and it appears he’ll have it throughout his National Hockey League career.
“I played four years of junior with it and have had some sticks definitely get high,” Phaneuf explained. “It’s something I’m comfortable with and something I’ll keep wearing.”
Playing an aggressive, in-your-face style that has physically punished even the biggest of players, it remains to be seen if the ‘old-school’ veterans of the league give the hulking defenseman a rough time, especially when it comes time for the 6’3, 213lb defenseman to drop the gloves, which will undoubtedly happen.
“Whether you have a visor on or not, it shouldn’t affect the way you play,” began Phaneuf. “I haven’t heard anything yet of any problems with that (from other players).”
Visor or not, though, Phaneuf has played well in the preseason, spending time on both special teams while skating his regular shift alongside Flames blueliner Andrew Ference. The pair could potentially make up the Calgary Flames third pairing, leaving the Omaha AkSarBen Knights Phaneuf-less in their inaugural season.
Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.