Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Asham a fabulous fit in Philly

Portage product of Metis heritage models self after Reggie the Rifle

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ARRON ASHAM has only worn the jersey for one season but he says he was meant to be with the Philadelphia Flyers all along.

"I've always loved the way the Flyers play and I fit in here," said the 31-year-old Asham, en route to the Flyers practice rink early Tuesday morning. "They play hard every night. They play tough hockey and I've always admired that. I always thought I should play here and when the chance came up last summer to come here, I thought it was the best place for me and a place where I'd really have a chance to win a Stanley Cup in the next couple of years."

The Flyers sit fourth in the NHL's Eastern Conference and still find themselves in a fight for a playoff spot with just seven games left on the schedule. It's likely the Flyers will get in and Asham thinks once they do they'll make some noise.

"Our style is playoff hockey. We've been playing this way since October and it's something that is hard to turn on this late in the season," said the Portage native. "Marty (goalie Marty Biron) is coming around and really playing great hockey right now. We've got lots of young legs and a real nice mix with some veterans like Mike Knuble and myself. I really like our team and our chances once the playoffs start. We play for one another and that's huge."

The right-winger was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the third round of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft after a fine junior career with the Red Deer Rebels. His first five seasons as a pro were split between the AHL, IHL and NHL and finally Asham played his first complete season in the NHL with the New York Islanders in 2002-03.

"It's all about confidence. Those first five years I was always scared to make a mistake. It's hard to play when you're worried that the next mistake will land you on the bench or get you sent down," said Asham, who has seven goals, nine assists and 153 penalty minutes in 71 games with the Flyers this season. "Getting out of that nervous zone, it means everything to a player. Being in the league as long as I have now, I'm comfortable. Hopefully I'm here for a lot longer."

Asham is Metis and says his heritage makes being part of the Flyers family special due to the club's history with Manitoban hockey legend Reggie Leach.

"Growing up Metis, you always look for any aboriginal and Reggie is one of the guys I looked up to," says Asham, a father of two girls and one boy. "His name was brought up a lot and I heard lots of stories about him. Now to be here and see his picture up all over the place and to see what a big part he was of things around here, it's an honour and an inspiration to follow in his footsteps."

Asham has now seen action in 569 NHL games with the Canadiens, Islanders, New Jersey Devils and Flyers.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Memorable mentoring

They say it takes a village to raise a child and in the case of Arron Asham, Portage la Prairie made him the man and hockey player he is today.

Asham is enjoying his time with the Philadelphia Flyers but when asked about how he got to this point in his life it all comes back to his roots.

INFLUENCES

"ö "My parents were first and foremost. They were always there. Always behind me."

"ö "My grandparents were also very important. They helped bring me up and supported me in everything I did."

"ö "Todd Blight was one of my coaches growing up in Portage. And Angus Moar. Those two guys, they made sure I did well in school and worked hard at hockey. They taught me to respect the game and to play the right way."

"ö "Bob Calder. He was the disciplinarian. He kept me on the straight and narrow. I played hockey with his son and he made sure we kept our noses clean. He was always around and always watching out for us."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 1, 2009 C3

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