It’s the dream of every youth hockey player to win the Stanley Cup. Playing in a Stanley Cup playoff game is equally as thrilling.
Former Union College hockey standout Josh Jooris got to experience his first Stanley Cup playoffs with the Calgary Flames. But it wasn’t until Game 3 of the Flames’ first-round series against the Vancouver Canucks that Jooris realized what it meant to be in the playoffs. The “C of Red” at the Scoitabank Saddledome for the Flames’ first home game of the series, which was tied at a game apiece, and the noise the fans generated gave him goose bumps.
“As soon as we came home, it was a little bit of a different animal,” said Jooris, who played for the Dutchmen from 2010-13 before signing a free-agent deal with the Flames in July 2013. “It was a pretty surreal feeling. It’s an honor to play in the playoffs, and it’s an honor to play in front of our fans, too. The amount of passion they have, it’s pretty cool to see that. It was a pretty special feeling.”
It was something he thought about when he was a kid in Burlington, Ontario.
“Growing up, it was kind of, whether it be on the streets in road hockey or wherever,” Jooris said, “in the end, your dreams of envisioning [playing] in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Being able to dress up and pretending your doing that, maybe every Canadian hockey kid who wants to be a [pro] player definitely envisions themselves playing in the Stanley Cup [playoffs].
“The fact that I was able to live through that was pretty cool.”
The Flames’ playoff run ended last Sunday when the Anaheim Ducks eliminated them in five games in their second-round series.
But the Flames were the talk of the NHL. They were in the playoffs for the first time since 2009. They were a team that never gave up when they fell behind. A example of that was their ability to overcome a 3-0 home-ice deficit against the Canucks in Game 6 and pull out a 7-4 series-clinching victory. They have an exciting player in forward Johnny Gaudreau, who is a finalist for the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year.
“We had a one goal in mind, and that was advance and, hopefully, win the Stanley Cup,” said Jooris, who had 12 goals and 12 assists in 60 regular-season games, but didn’t get a point in nine playoff contests. “That Vancouver series, coming back and winning that [series] in six at home in front of our fans was pretty special. I don’t think many people saw us making it as far as we did and doing as well as we did. It was great being able to advance to the second round.
“The whole feeling of playing in the playoffs was pretty cool. It’s too bad that we came up short.”
The Flames’ never-give-up attitude brought them a lot of attention. Despite losing captain Mark Giordano to a season-ending bicep tendon tear in late February, the Flames were able to finish third in the Pacific Division and keep the defending Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings from making the playoffs.
“A lot of outsiders pinned us as underdogs, and I guess everyone loves the underdog story,” Jooris said. “The thing that made us successful was the belief in each other. We had a lot of third-period comebacks. We never counted ourselves out in games. We always believed that we could come back. We had a good mix of solid veterans who led us greatly, and some good, young energy. The whole team dynamic, we worked well together. It’s a special group of guys.”
Jooris is already looking forward to next season. He sees a bright future for the team.
“The sky’s the limit,” Jooris said. “The culture is in place now. We believe in our system, and we believe in each other. The experience we just gained will only help us.”