Calgary had everything that Jonas Hiller was looking for. Well, almost everything.
It’s missing a beach and the 80-degree days that are standard at Southern California beaches in November.
"Home for me was Newport Beach," he said. "It’s tough when you move away from Southern California. But Calgary is a great city to be part of for hockey."
The former Anaheim Ducks netminder was signed to a two-year contract by Pacific Division foe Calgary during the offseason and his introduction to a Canadian market has gone as smooth as he could have hoped: Hiller has helped the Flames to 28 points and a third-place Pacific Division standing with the 16th-best goals against average mark in the league.
"Everything has been really positive," Hiller said Tuesday, in his first trip to the Honda Center since his departure. "The people that come to the game are interested. The whole city follows hockey, so it’s a little different, so I’ve been surprised by how positive everything is."
The positivity followed a negative end in Orange County.
Hiller, who rewrote the Anaheim record books in seven seasons with the Ducks, was sat through most of the 2014 playoffs while rookies Frederik Andersen and John Gibson – who at the time had mere minutes of NHL service time under his belt – were used instead of the veteran.
He wasn’t on the market for long. Hiller was snapped up on the first day of free agency, and upon his arrival he made some stinging comments about Anaheim not being a true hockey town.
But despite the messy end to what was otherwise a harmonious tenure with the Ducks, he looks back on his time in Anaheim with nothing but fond memories.
Ducks’ win over Flames gives coach Boudreau some optimism
"I had great, great years here," he said. "The Ducks gave me a chance to play in the NHL and I was fortunate to stay with the same team for seven years and I really enjoyed being here, I definitely felt at home. It’s a little strange coming here and suddenly being the visitor, but when I think back on Anaheim, I definitely take all of the positives. I still have a lot of friends here and people I still talk to and those are things that are going to last even after hockey."
The Flames carried a 19-game Honda Center losing streak into Anaheim Tuesday night, and oddly enough it was Hiller who helped extend that streak for seven years. He wasn’t able to snap it on the other end, but should he help backstop Calgary to its first playoff appearance since the 2008-2009 season, he’ll get another shot, and a shot at something bigger as well.
Sometimes, a career, a location or a relationship can grow stale. It was mutually beneficial, as both parties are now thriving. The only thing Hiller might change is dire lack of beach days.
"The Ducks kind of made a name for themselves in Southern California and it’s nice to be a part of that," Hiller said. "But at the same time, I’ve kind of turned pages."