Jason Jaffray is at camp with the team he grew up cheering
Jaffray, along with 35 other players, was put through some some gruelling fitness testing Tuesday at the Pengrowth Saddledome as Flames hopefuls gathered for the start of prospects training camp.
Having grown up as both a fan, and more recently as an opponent of the Flames, he is excited to finally be sporting the Flaming C on his chest.
"It' a little bit surreal. When you grow up watching the Flames, watching them through the '80's and '90's, it's weird to see your name in the Calgary Flames dressing room, to think you're going to be wearing a Calgary Flames jersey for the next few weeks," said Jaffray, who grew up just north of Calgary in Olds.
"It's something that gives you goose bumps when you look back at the number of times you've been to the Saddledome."
Jaffray made it a priority to play in Calgary during the off-season after being part of the Vancouver Canucks organization since 2005.
"I thought both family-wise and career-wise, this was the best choice for me… I had some options, but Calgary was definitely number one on my list. My style of game really fits in this organization and if you look at the coaching staff, they've seen what I've done over the last few years... Being an Alberta boy and growing up around the Sutters, hopefully them knowing and playing against me helps a little bit," said the six-foot-one, 205-pound forward.
Born in Rimbey, Alberta, Jaffray grew up in Olds and spent his formative years in Brooks. During those days he played against Brent Sutter when he coached the Red Deer Rebels, had Ryan McGill as a head coach in juniors, and attended a San Jose Sharks training camp when Darryl Sutter was with the Sharks.
So while his superiors know what the forward brings to the table, he is also keenly aware of what they expect from him, and where he can contribute.
"My style isn't the flashy style, I'm not going to out stick-handle anybody or score the fancy goal, but I score a lot of goals in the 12-15 foot range in front of the net, the dirty goals. I play a couple of positions; I played centre in Vancouver and was a left-wing in Manitoba so I think that helps out my situation a little bit. I'm a versatile player and can fit in the spot when it's needed," said Jaffray.
"Watching Calgary, their style of play has always been rough-and-tumble, and I'm definitely not a guy to shy away from that. When I was up in Vancouver last year I had two or three fights in the 14 games I played. I know that's something that comes with the game when you're playing for the Calgary Flames is you can't be afraid to do stuff like that, and I'm not."
Jaffray, who has attended previous training camps with Vancouver, San Jose, and Carolina, signed with the Flames as a free agent shortly after the signing period began after July 1. Though he hasn’t shown up for prospect fitness testing in a couple of years, he is embracing the opportunity to get a head start on his competition.
"It's a little bit different to have to come back to rookie camp, but it's actually been a good situation. Don't know many of the guys, so I get to meet a lot of the guys that are vying for the spots this year," said Jaffray.
"You get a chance to meet the coaching staff, figure out the systems they're doing... I'm definitely coming to a new organization and have to learn their system, and to get another couple of days to do that before the big boys come in is a plus."
When the whole team is assembled, Jaffray can be certain to take his share of chiding as a former enemy combatant. He spent the last few years in the Vancouver Canucks’ system, playing 14 games for them last season and tallying two goals and four points. According to Jaffray, the rivalry between the teams is as fierce on their side as it is on this end.
"I remember the talk in the dressing room in Vancouver. It's the same way with them. The rivalry has grown so much between the Canucks and the Flames... Both teams have agitators that really get under each other's skin," said Jaffray, who knows he’ll carry mixed emotions into matches between the teams.
"Obviously it's a tough situation. Nobody likes playing against their friends; I put close to five years in Vancouver's system... I've got a lot of friends on that team, and it's going to be difficult to play against them, but anything that fuels the fire I guess can add to the game.
"It'll definitely be something different."