Calgary Herald

Aliu credits Heat coach with success

- SCOTT CRUICKSHAN­K

The day after his first National Hockey League appearance, the day after his first NHL point, Akim Aliu was still raving about Troy Ward.

Specifical­ly, Ward’s role in getting Aliu’s foot back in the hockey door.

Not all of it had to do with X’s and O’s.

The kid with the bad-boy rep needed to have a few rough patches sanded off.

And the Abbotsford Heat coach, instrument­al in the Krys Kolanos reclamatio­n project, was there for Aliu.

“Troy, down there, helped me a ton with my image,” Aliu was saying after Friday morning’s practice with the Calgary Flames. “Obviously, I cut my hair . . . and a bunch of (other) things I had to do. Learned how to dress better. A lot of the off-ice (upgrades) helped me on-ice.

“Troy’s a different guy, but he’s special because he wants to take on guys that have issues, have problems, and he wants to work on that. He’s not a guy that wants to take on an easy job.

“A really, really good guy. A special guy.”

Not surprising­ly, Aliu didn’t stop at Ward. He also singled out for thanks Flames general manager Jay Feaster, assistant general manager John Weisbrod, goalie coach Clint Malarchuk. And, especially, Rick Dudley, who’d drafted him for the Chicago Blackhawks, then traded for him in Atlanta.

With the Flames, Dudley had put in a good word for Aliu.

“I still felt I had a bit of a stigma . . . the way that other people looked at me,” said the strapping winger, the 56th pick overall in 2007. “when i went to Winnipeg, it was just a complete debacle for me. (Jets general manager) Kevin Cheveldayo­ff basically wrote me off right away and didn’t give me much of an opportunit­y.

“But Jay? It was incredible. It’s something you don’t see every day. I called him up and asked if I could meet with him. To give me the time of day . . . a National Hockey League general manager? It just spoke volumes about what kind of guy he is. I thank the world for that.”

More than anything, Aliu appreciate­s the clean slate the Flames have presented.

“My career was on the line and I owe it to them that I’m still in the business,” said the restricted free agent, who turns 23 this month. “I went from being in the east coast hockey league to playing in the National Hockey League. That’s incredible that they gave me the opportunit­y.

“There were days i was almost ready to give up in the last year and a half to two years. Coming here and seeing these guys has made it really good for me. I’m going to work real hard to be here next year.”

 ?? Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register ?? The Anaheim Ducks’ Teemu Selanne has 66 points going into today’s regular-season finale against the Calgary Flames. The Finnish winger has yet to decide whether he will retire or continue playing next year.
Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register The Anaheim Ducks’ Teemu Selanne has 66 points going into today’s regular-season finale against the Calgary Flames. The Finnish winger has yet to decide whether he will retire or continue playing next year.
 ?? Stuart Gradon, Calgary Herald ?? Calgary’s Akim Aliu, bottom, has credited Abbottsfor­d Heat coach Troy Ward with his recent call up.
Stuart Gradon, Calgary Herald Calgary’s Akim Aliu, bottom, has credited Abbottsfor­d Heat coach Troy Ward with his recent call up.

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