WORK­ING VA­CA­TION

Flames coach is all busi­ness

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - WES GILBERTSON wgilbert­[email protected] Twit­ter.com/WesGil­bert­son

SHEN­ZHEN, CHINA Prior to de­par­ture, Bill Peters had re­peat­edly stressed that this is, first and fore­most, a busi­ness trip.

So it should be no sur­prise that just mo­ments af­ter the Cal­gary Flames ar­rived Wed­nes­day night at their ho­tel in Shen­zhen, China, their new head coach was keen to fast for­ward to the next morn­ing and, fi­nally, put his plan into ac­tion.

As it turned out, he would have to wait a wee bit longer.

The Flames’ first prac­tice at Shen­zhen Univer­si­ade Sports Cen­ter was post­poned by four hours — bumped from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. lo­cal time — due to a delay in their equip­ment be­ing cleared through cus­toms.

“We’ve put a lot of time in to pre­pare for this trip to China, and now it will fi­nally come to fruition,” Peters said upon Wed­nes­day’s ar­rival, rar­ing to go de­spite the grind of a 14-hour flight.

“It’s our first day on the ice, and the fo­cus is go­ing to be on O -zone forecheck and O-zone en­tries. Then we’re go­ing to flood, and we’re go­ing to come back out and spend 30 min­utes on spe­cialty teams.

“We have a plan in place for all four prac­tice days.”

That plan was fi­nal­ized long be­fore they filled their suit­cases for this once-in-a-life­time trip to the op­po­site side of the globe.

Not only do the Flames have an over­hauled staff — Peters, ex of the Carolina Hur­ri­canes, was hired in late April — and a bunch of new faces on the ros­ter, but they ’re also fac­ing the unique chal­lenge of run­ning three train­ing-camp groups on two sep­a­rate con­ti­nents.

From the dy­namic for­ward duo of Johnny Gau­dreau and Sean Mon­a­han to the top de­fence pair of T.J. Brodie and Mark Gior­dano and start­ing puck-stop­per Mike Smith, all of Cal­gary’s key con­trib­u­tors are to­gether at the O.R.G. China Games, a two-game ex­hi­bi­tion set against the Bos­ton Bru­ins in Shen­zhen and Bei­jing.

Peters and his big-league staff — as­so­ciate Ge­off Ward, as­sis­tants Ryan Huska and Martin Geli­nas and goal­tend­ing coach Jor­dan Si­galet — are here, too.

Mean­while, the rest of the Flames’ main-campers will gear up Fri­day for their first ses­sions, anx­ious to make an im­pres­sion while the go-to guys are globe-trot­ting.

Among those stay­ing put in Cal­gary were goal­tender David Rit­tich — the front-run­ner to serve as Smith’s backup this sea­son — and top prospects Dil­lon Dube and Ju­uso Val­i­maki, who cap­tained their re­spec­tive coun­tries at the world ju­niors last win­ter and are hop­ing to jump straight to the Sad­dle­dome as first-year pros.

Cail MacLean, now skip­per for the Amer­i­can Hockey League’s Stock­ton Heat, will run the drills for the Cal­gary-based campers.

“The chal­lenge is that you have to be more or­ga­nized,” Peters sum­ma­rized. “What we’re do­ing is we’re go­ing to run the same prac­tices. The first four prac­tices are iden­ti­cal. They’re go­ing to be show­ing the ex­act same video on the first four days of prac­tice (in Cal­gary) that we’re go­ing to show in China. So just be­cause we’re not back there ... We’re go­ing to know what has been said and what drills have been run and what con­cepts have been taught.

“And when we get back home, it should be as seam­less as pos­si­ble with the amal­ga­ma­tion into one group.”

The Flames’ trav­el­ling troupe has a pair of prac­tices prior to Satur­day ’s pre-sea­son opener against the Bru­ins in Shen­zhen, then two more prep ses­sions be­fore a game Wed­nes­day in Bei­jing.

Those on-ice work­outs will pro­vide the first glimpse into Peters’ ap­proach and the iden­tity he’s hop­ing to cre­ate for a crew that un­der­achieved last win­ter, cost­ing for­mer head coach Glen Gu­lutzan his job.

“Out of our staff, they can ex­pect an or­ga­nized staff. They’re go­ing to see a staff that knows what they want and there’s go­ing to be a cer­tain style of play that will be no­tice­able once we get through train­ing camp and it’s the reg­u­lar sea­son,” Peters promised.

“The sys­tem play will take a lit­tle bit. There will be some com­mu­ni­ca­tion and some con­ver­sa­tion from play­ers. They un­der­stand there is no such thing as a bad ques­tion when you’re chang­ing coaches, so if you’re un­sure, make sure you ask.

“And then we want them to play. We don’t want them to have to think a whole bunch. We want them to be able to play and play hard and play fast.”

We’ve put a lot of time in to pre­pare for this trip to China, and now it will fi­nally come to fruition.

GAVIN YOUNG

Cal­gary Flames head coach Bill Peters has trav­elled to the other side of the world to of­fi­cially be­gin his coach­ing du­ties.

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