Hockey: Huska good fit for Flames

Ryan Huska has a fond memory of Glens Falls from his two seasons in the American Hockey League.

Ryan Huska has a fond memory of Glens Falls from his two seasons in the American Hockey League.

“When I played in the AHL [1998-2000], I remember coming here. I remember going to a great restaurant. I can still picture it in my head,” said Huska, who was introduced Monday as the head coach of the Adirondack Flames, the AHL franchise that relocated from Abbotsford, B.C., and will call the Glens Falls Civic Center home beginning in October. “A lot of things have come back, like where the arena was, and where the hotel was.”

Huska is making the jump from major junior hockey, having coached the Kelowna (B.C.) Rockets the past seven years. He was the assistant coach the five years prior to that.

“My background is in junior hockey, I worked with players 17, 18, 19 years old,” said the 39-year-old Huska, a native of British Columbia who played five seasons in the minor leagues. “The team here will be a little bit older. When you look at the American Hockey League, it is becoming more and more a younger league.”

Huska, a teammate of Jarome Iginla and Shane Doan during his days with the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL, got a glowing recommendation from one of his new bosses.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to have Ryan Huska, with the experience he has,” said Brad Pascall, one of Calgary’s three assistant GMs, who knew Huska through the Canadian national program. “I was fortunate to work with Ryan on two occasions with Team Canada at the World Juniors. We got a bronze medal and a silver medal.

“Through that experience with Ryan, I got to learn what kind of coach he is. He’s a communicator. He’s a teacher. He knows how to develop talent, and he’s a champion.

“He’s had experience as a player in the American and International leagues. He’s won Memorial Cups as a player and a coach. He’s a tremendous individual.”

Huska, recently with the Flames’ developmental camp, described the type of team he and Calgary want to put on the ice.

“We’re going to be a hard-working team. We’re going to be a young team, but we’ll be a competitive team,” Huska said.

“Checking will be an important part of our game. We’ll be trying to force mistakes, but play smart. If you’re playing a smart, aggressive brand of hockey, you can still force turnovers. That’s what we want to try to bring here.”

He’s not concerned about dealing with the professional game, and players on the cusp of making big money in the National Hockey League.

“It will be a little different dealing with the age group, but at the end of the day, the systems we played with my teams in Kelowna are going to be similar to what we’ll play here,” said Huska, who coached the Rockets to the Memorial Cup final in 2009. He won that trophy as a player three times, and was an assistant coach when the Rockets were champions in 2004.

Huska will lean on his connections to help familiarize himself with the league.

“Part of the learning curve for me will be to learn the tendencies of the other teams in the league,” he said. “I know people I’ve coached and other coaches that I can use as a resource to get a little information on teams.”

The Flames will hold their final preseason camp here in late September, and are scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games, one in Glens Falls.

Another of the Flames’ general managers, Mike Holditch, said the NHL club was not overly concerned about the upcoming auction of the Civic Center.

“It’s having no impact,” Holditch said of the bidding on the building, which is scheduled to begin Friday. “It’s something we’ve spoken to the mayor about.”

As for the Flames’ interest in purchasing the Civic Center, Holditch was noncommittal.

“It’s my understanding that it will be an open bidding process,” he said.

Adirondack team president Brian Petrovek updated the team’s season ticket drive.

“We are hovering around 1,050,” he said. “We’ve got a 1,300 ticket goal, so we’re moving in the right direction.”

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