Flames GM Treliving recalls fond memories of playing days in ECHL Columbus

Author: Wes Gilbertson, calgarysun.com
Date: Nov 24, 2017

COLUMBUS — Brad Treliving insists this scouting report would be short and not the least bit sweet.

Because he is so often quoted on injuries, transactions and other serious subjects and because his intensity level is usually sky-high whenever he is glimpsed on game broadcasts, hockey fans might not realize that Treliving can also be a barrel of laughs — armed with a quick wit and not afraid to crack jokes at his own expense.

This is a prime example.

Treliving, from his current perch as general manager of the Calgary Flames, is asked what he might have scribbled in his notebook while watching his younger self in action as a minor-league defenceman in the early-90s . . .

“The scouting report on me? It would just say ‘No’ or ‘Next,’ ” the 48-year-old Treliving said with a chuckle. “You know how we talk about the new NHL? Well … apparently I wasn’t built for the old NHL, but I know I wasn’t built for the new one. As a scout, you would be assuming, ‘He must be good in the room.’ Because there wasn’t much outside the room.”

The Flames were in action Wednesday in Treliving’s old stomping grounds.

Before his emergence as one of the NHL’s most respected hockey minds, the tall chap from Penticton, B.C., patrolled the blueline for the Columbus Chill of the ECHL, a franchise that eventually relocated due to the arrival of the big-league Blue Jackets.

Shortly after turning 22, Treliving scored an invite to attend training camp in the fall of 1991 with the Vancouver Canucks.

Sometime during that audition, he was approached by Chill head coach Terry Ruskowski — a former captain of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, and Pittsburgh Penguins and of the WHA’s Houston Aeros — about toiling for what was then an expansion squad at Ohio State Fairgrounds Expo Coliseum.

“To be honest, I’d never even heard of Columbus,” Treliving said. “But I absolutely fell in love with the city. And that team, if you look back, it was a home run . . . For a long period of time, it set the sellout record for the East Coast League. It was three or four years, sold out every game. A fun place to play.

“Years later, when they announced the NHL was coming, I thought, ‘This is going to be a hit.’ ”

Treliving wore eight different jerseys in his five seasons of professional puck — including two brief stints with the Ottawa Senators’ top affiliate in the American Hockey League — but he logged the majority of his playing career in Columbus, where he totalled 14 goals, 55 assists and 511 penalty minutes in 163 appearances for the Chill.

During their inaugural season of 1991-92, his 170 PIMs were the fifth-highest total on the team.

“That team was not built on good looks and skill,” Treliving said.

Starting that winter, the Chill notched 83 straight sellouts of their 5,600-seat rink, and fans didn’t just show up because of the possibility that a few sets of mitts would hit the ice.

“They were so ahead of their time in terms of some of the promotions they did — off-the-wall stuff, crazy, wacky stuff,” Treliving recalled. “If you go back and Google ‘Columbus Chill promotions,’ it was off the charts.”

If you search Treliving’s name on YouTube, you can find a clip of the young blueliner being interviewed by a local news outlet prior to the Chill’s home-opener in ’91. After a few questions, the reporter mentions the slate of contests that night would include a frozen-chicken shoot.

There may not be a lot of footage from Treliving’s playing career of end-to-end rushes or top-shelf howitzers, but the Flames general manager has fond memories.

“I never played in the NHL, so my story was never one of making it,” said Treliving, who stayed in the biz after his final season on skates, co-founding the Western Professional Hockey League and later serving as president of the Central Hockey League before ascending to assistant general manager of the Arizona Coyotes and then being hired to build a winner at the Saddledome. “But I loved to play. I think the best part of the game is playing. And what it afforded me, in terms of the people I met, the places I got to go, the experiences I had . . . I mean, hockey took me to Columbus. I met my wife there.

“And just the people you come in contact with . . . For me, it was an avenue to build a network of people, to build some life experiences. When you’re playing at those levels and bouncing all over the place and making a couple hundred bucks a week or whatever it is, you think you have the world by the tail.

“So that’s what I take away from my career — lots of good memories and lots of good people.”

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