Quad City’s Kolanos hoping to make happy homecoming

by Jeff Wendland || AHL On The Beat Archive

kolanos2_200.jpgGrowing up in Calgary, Krys Kolanos dreamed of someday putting on a hockey sweater with that fiery red "C" across his chest.

If all things go according to his plans, that someday may not be as far away as he once thought.

Kolanos hopes his road back to the NHL and to his hometown team is starting with the Quad City Flames.

"You don’t know how much that would mean to me to put that Calgary uniform on and play in front of my family and friends," Kolanos said. "They all know how hard I’ve worked to get back and what this chance means to me."

Kolanos was a first-round pick by the Phoenix Coyotes in 2000 and began his pro career in 2001 with Phoenix, where he played in 57 games as a rookie and scored 22 points (11 goals and 11 assists). Injuries after that set his career back. Now he’s hoping to make the long climb back through the AHL.

Calgary gave him an invitation to training camp in August. He knew the odds were long that he’d make the NHL roster. He was assigned to Quad City, but refused to report.

"It was a business decision," he said, hinting that it centered around finances.

He returned to Tempe, Ariz., where he worked out at Arizona State University, hoping something could be worked out.

"I was skating four or five times a week and playing in a couple of adult leagues," he said. "I probably worked harder than the guys who were playing. I had a few other teams interested in me, but I really wanted to play for the Flames.

"Darryl (Sutter, Calgary general manager) called me a couple of weeks ago and both sides expressed interest in doing something. It took about three days to get it done and here I am."

His salary, reported to be more than $100,000 per year, got him here; his play thus far has him thinking of much greater things.

kolanos_200.jpgKolanos has 12 goals and 11 assists in his first 22 games with QC.

"I was ready to go," he said. "This worked out just the way I was hoping where they threw me right in there and I played a lot of games. It remains to be seen how my body will hold up, but I feel pretty good now.

"The last couple of games have been a struggle offensively, but I’m getting my chances and if that’s happening, they’ll go in."

Kolanos is a huge offensive threat for a QC team that struggled to score goals early in the season. The fast start was no suprise to his coach. It’s how well he can keep it up that will be interesting to see.

"You would expect anyone with the skill level that Krys has to have success early," Flames coach Ryan McGill said. "Now, the thing is, can he keep playing at that level? Coaches in this league are smart and they’ve seen tapes. They’ll game-plan against him and he’s going to have to battle through that.

"Plus, he was playing on emotion those first few games. I would expect the fatigue factor will set in and he’ll have to play through that."

With much made of his signing, the fact that QC Flames owners Quad City Sports Ventures are paying his salary (like they do for Tim Hambly, the team’s other player on an AHL contract), there was a lot heaped on his shoulders. Don’t tell Kolanos that’s pressure.

"Like an old coach of mine once told me, ‘Pressure is something you find in tires’ and not on me," Kolanos said. "I’m just coming in here to do what I do. I have something ahead of me that means a lot to me and this is where it starts."

Jeff Wendland covers the Flames and the AHL for the (Moline) Dispatch and the Rock Island Argus