Ramholt looks forward to North America

By Lawrence Bailey

From the Alps to the Rockies: a Swiss defender looks forward to a career in Calgary

He is the anomaly. In a draft where Flames General Manager Darryl Sutter said he was going after North Americans, Swiss defender Tim Ramholt (the Flames second round pick, 39th overall) sticks out like a sore thumb. However, looks can be deceiving.

The 6’1”, 195 lbs. rearguard isn’t your stereotypical European skater—-call him the Don Cherry exception. Coveted by many teams in the second round due to his strong skating and physical play, Ramholt is made for the North American game and he knows it.

“I love to play tough,” he explained shortly after being selected by the Flames. “I love to play on the small rink. I’m a both ways defenseman: offensive and defensive. I like to take over responsibility.”

While some scouts have given mixed reviews over whether he can handle a lot of responsibility, none have doubted his talents at either end of the rink. He had a solid showing at the 2003 World Junior Hockey Championships in Halifax with the Swiss national team.

One of the concerns for Sutter and Co., also one of the reasons they were shying away from drafting European players, was the tendency for Euros to stay overseas rather than come to North America and make the transition to a different style of play. With this youngster that doesn’t seem to be as much of an obstacle.

“I played in Zurich in the (Swiss) Elite League,” said Ramholt. “I’ve played there two years. Now maybe I’ll play my third year or I’ll move to North America.”

Over the course of this past season, Ramholt was often unhappy with his limited ice time in Zurich; an attitude that can be read a couple of ways. Either he’s a bit of a primadonna, expecting to get his way, or else he’s a fierce competitor, always wanting to be in the mix. Either way, it does support the idea he may make the jump to North America, especially if he’ll play a larger role.

If he decides to leave his motherland behind, Ramholt will be lacing them up in front of the top pick in 2003, goaltender Marc-André Fleury, for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL. He was selected by the Eagles in the CHL Import Draft. A year or two in the Q might be just what the doctor ordered for the speedy, puck moving defenseman, as it is a happy medium between the finesse European game and the more physical play he can expect in the NHL.

Once he finally makes it to Calgary, Ramholt will not be a fish out of water—he’s played in town before.

“I played in a tournament in Calgary and I love the city. I’m very happy to be going there,” an excited Ramholt said, referring to his experience a few years ago at the Macs’ Midget Tournament. “I played one of my best tournaments in Calgary. I was there for two and a half weeks. Every day was perfect, and now I get to go there again.”

A decidedly glowing review from one of the newest Flames, a review many Flames fans hope they can give of Ramholt in a couple years. With his combination of grit, speed and skill, it’s all up to him. One thing is certain, a few more Flames fans will be following the Q this season, to see how this new stud in the stable handles himself.