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When Brad Treliving has control of the remote, he prefers Joe Carter or Joe Colborne to Joe Exotic.
“I couldn’t get into that Tiger King thing my daughters were watching — that’s just crazy,” Treliving said Tuesday on a conference call with local media. “So I’ve been watching a lot of those old games, and it’s been entertaining.”
With all professional sports paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of fans have been getting their fix thanks to throwback footage.
Treliving, the general manager of the Calgary Flames, is no different.
He’s re-lived the glory days of the Toronto Blue Jays, winners of back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and ’93.
He’s watched current assistant coach Martin Gelinas start his reputation as ‘The Eliminator’ with a Game 7 overtime goal for the Flames in the opening round in 2004 and then skate for the 1994 Vancouver Canucks just after the commercial break, quite a feat even for this fitness freak. (“I phoned Gelly and said, ‘You must be tired — you were playing in back-to-back games!’ ”)
He’s wondered the same as the rest of us. (“What the hell was a penalty back then?”)
“And then I watched our Game 6 in 2015 against Vancouver,” Treliving said, referring to a stirring comeback for a series victory in his what was his first campaign at the Saddledome. “It’s funny, you start sweating. We were down 3-0 and I knew how it ended, but you’re still nervous.”
For the foreseeable future, hockey fans will have to settle for archived material.
It’s been nearly four weeks since COVID-19 forced a sporting shutdown. There’s no score-clock for a global health crisis, but the end is nowhere in sight.
Treliving started Tuesday’s call with the important stuff — thanking medical workers and other front-liners, marking the second anniversary of the Humboldt Broncos’ bus tragedy and sending his well-wishes to Edmonton Oilers forward Colby Cave after he was placed in a medically induced coma due to a brain bleed — but also reiterated that he remains optimistic about eventually returning to the rink to conclude the 2019-20 campaign.
There has been plenty of brainstorming about what the Stanley Cup playoffs could look like, including talk of a neutral-site tournament.
Before any of that, the skating stars would need to be cleared to travel. Many are isolating at their off-season homes, some overseas.
“Our hope is that you get to that stage because that means a lot of things are going well,” Treliving said. “I think we’re all looking for good news. Again, I always preface that we have to take our appropriate place and make sure that we place the importance of our games in the appropriate spectrum — it’s down the list. But to me, that gives you hope and optimism that things are going to get better.”
Things were going fairly well for the Flames before the COVID-19 pandemic prompted this timeout.
They were perched in a playoff position.
After a rollercoaster season that included TJ Brodie’s scary collapse in practice and alarming accusations from Bill Peters’ previous stops that eventually led to his resignation as coach, they believed they were peaking at the right time.
Sure, Treliving has enjoyed those throwback games, but the reality TV that he’s yearning for is to see what his club could accomplish in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.
“You’re really excited to see what this team could do,” Treliving said. “We went through a great deal of adversity throughout the year and I think in a lot of ways, that hardened us. I thought our team was really playing extremely well. I thought we were sort of approaching this time of year as you would hope to be, in terms of playing our best games. I know our team was excited about the stretch-drive ahead of us …
“Adversity, it doesn’t build character, it reveals it,” he added later. “I think we’ve been through a lot and I was excited to take all those experiences and see how the finished product would look. Hopefully, we’re going to get a chance to see that.”
WHAT ABOUT JUUSO?
He must be lonely, but Flames top prospect Juuso Valimaki is making positive progress in his recovery from what most expected would be a season-ending knee injury.
As a rehabbing player, the 21-year-old defenceman is permitted to skate at the Saddledome during the COVID-19 pause.
None of his teammates are allowed at the rink.
“He’s made tremendous strides throughout his rehab,” said Flames general manager Brad Treliving of Valimaki, who suffered a torn ACL in August and has missed the entire season so far. “We’re not at that position where if we were playing today, he’s cleared. But he certainly is moving in the right direction and there has been no setbacks there.”
Question is, could Valimaki — the Flames’ first-round selection in the 2017 NHL Draft and with 26 big-league appearances on his resume so far — return to the lineup if this season eventually resumes?
“I guess the answer would be maybe,” Treliving replied. “I’ve said it all along — the No. 1 priority for us for Juuso is we think he’s going to be a really, really impactful player for a long time, and I’m not going to do anything to put that in jeopardy for a short-term return. When he’s ready to go at 100%, no restrictions, that’s when he’ll go. If that matches up and blends in when we have time remaining in this season, so be it. If it’s not until 2020-21 …
“There is no, ‘Let’s push it a little harder here now so we can get him ready for if we come back.’ We’re taking the long view on this one.”
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