If this was several years back, Scott Zary would have been cheering Friday for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
His rooting allegiance, his son assured, has since changed.
“He used to be a Leafs fan, before I got drafted,” Calgary Flames rookie forward Connor Zary said with a grin. “He is on our side now.”
Both Scott and Connor Zary must have been in pinch-me mode again as the Flames opened a three-game trip against the Maple Leafs in what is often referred to as the centre of the hockey universe.
Connor, who honed his skills in Saskatoon, starred in Kamloops for the WHL’s Blazers and was selected by Calgary in the first round of the 2020 NHL draft, has made quite an introduction over the past week and change.
His first big-league shot found the back of the net.
The 22-year-old left winger earned an assist in his second career contest and another in his third, and he has been a nice fit alongside Nazem Kadri and Yegor Sharangovich on a new-look second line.
Heading into Friday’s matchup with the Maple Leafs, Zary had collected a point in every single game he had dressed for so far this season — six with the AHL’s Wranglers and a hat-trick of impressive performances since being called up by the big club.
As Wranglers bench boss Trent Cull put it during his weekly appearance on Flames Talk on Sportsnet 960 The Fan: “He’s a guy who wants the puck, and I’ve seen that at the NHL level. It’s like nothing changed for him.”
Plenty has changed, of course: The pressure, the pay, the perks of travel, on and on …
“It’s been a fun experience so far,” Zary told Postmedia before departing on this eastern swing, which continues Saturday against the Ottawa Senators. “I’m just taking things day-by-day, game-by-game, and acting like every one is the first one. That’s the mentality for me. There’s always a lot to prove and a lot to do when you get out there.
“I think we’ve found success as a line and we’ve been building pretty well as a team in the last few games, at least since I’ve been up. So it’s been good so far. I think just keep pushing and have that attitude that every day is a new day and every game is like your first game and keep trying to prove a point.”
A point-per-game clip is a pretty good way to start, although Zary cautioned that he can’t get too cozy.
“Every day is an opportunity to prove myself and, as much as I can, be on my game every single night,” he stressed. “That’s the whole thing about this league — everyone can be a good player one night but if you can consistently do it, that’s what makes you successful and impactful.
“Every day in this league is special, so you treat every day like it’s your first day and you come in here and put your nose to the grindstone and go after it.”
Mike Vernon is being saluted for his work in a mask and pads.
In the lead-up to Monday’s Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the legendary puck-stopper has been busy with an eraser.
“I timed my speech the other day and it was, like, 18 minutes long,” Vernon said before departing for Toronto. “And they go, ‘No, you’ve gotta get it down to five minutes …’”
That’s not an easy task, especially with so many stories to tell and so many people — family and friends, teammates and coaches, etc. etc. — to thank.
“But I think I’m there. I think I have it sewn up,” said Vernon, who backstopped the Flames to a Stanley Cup celebration in 1989. “I’m sure I’m going to miss a few people, but I tried to mention everybody. Hopefully, nobody will be offended.”
The Hockey Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023 was honoured prior to Friday’s showdown at Scotiabank Arena, one of the highlights on what is a busy itinerary for the annual induction festivities. As the Flames hit the ice for warmups in Toronto, every player was wearing Vernon’s old No. 30.
Back in June, in his role as chairman of the hallowed hall, Lanny McDonald was thrilled to dial up his former teammate with news of his induction. Vernon, at first, thought Lanny was trying to arrange a golf game.
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“I have talked to him quite a few times since that phone call and I’ve been telling him, ‘It is going to fly by,’” said McDonald, who was inducted himself in 1992. “There is so much going on — you have the ring presentation on Friday afternoon, you have the Hall of Fame game on Friday night, you have the open forum Saturday, Vernie has his own private party on Saturday night, the legends game on Sunday afternoon … I’m telling him, he is going to look back and think, ‘Oh my god, where did that weekend go?!?’
“He’ll be exhausted by the time he gets home, but it will be so much fun.”
Jacob Markstrom, the Flames’ current go-to goaltender, was stuck spectating Friday. He is officially day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. That explains why top prospect Dustin Wolf was recalled from the Wranglers to join the Flames on this three-game junket.
Wes Gilbertson and Danny Austin have been covering the Flames for years and know what makes the team tick. Have questions? They have the answers – or the contacts to track them down. Send your questions to email@example.com