The University of Calgary Dinos men's hockey team has a new trick up their sleeve that may translate into a winning season.
The team announced the recruitment of former NHL player Jared Aulin for the 2007-08 season. Aulin comes off an impressive professional career spanning four different AHL league cities and three NHL franchises, including his highlight season with the Los Angeles Kings in 2002-03.
Though head coach Scott Atkinson is excited about his newest recruit, he noted that there are still expectations on Aulin as he heads into his fifth year of CIS eligibility.
"We just expect him to bring what you expect out of any good player," he said. "With his experience, he's going to have a lot of ability to lead our players and we expect him to do a good job that way. The other thing is we have high expectations for him off the ice as well. We expect him to do well in school, and he's very dedicated and very enthusiastic."
Many in the Dinos' camp are taking a cautious optimism with Aulin's membership on the team. Several of his fellow teammates know him from their time together in the Kamloops Blazers, including fourth-year forward Ryan Annesley.
The new Dino is one of only nine players to return to CIS play after being with an NHL franchise and the latest since Washing Capitals player Eric Calder, who left the professional hockey world in 1985 to attend Wilfrid Laurier University and play on their team, the Golden Hawks.
Aulin's professional career showed promise as he scored 108 points in the 2000-01 WHL season. When he got to the NHL, Aulin was drafted in the second round 47th overall by the Colorado Avalanche. He also played for Team Canada at the 2002 World Junior Hockey Championship, garnering the team silver and making him even more of an asset for Calgary.
"On the ice, he's just a complete skill-package, particularly in our league," said Atkinson. "He can skate, he can shoot, he can handle a puck and he uses the ice really well."
Aulin was involved in an incident during a recreational hockey game that resulted in him sustaining a concussion and swollen carotid artery last July. The experience jarred the player in many ways, almost pushing him to give up the sport he'd become so involved in.
"This guy and my teammate were having a little altercation and then he tomahawk-chopped my teammate over the head with his stick," he explained. "I gave him a shot to the chin with my glove--nothing that's going to hurt anybody--and asked him what he was doing and next thing I know, I was getting slashed across the neck and knocked out."
Despite the injury and its fallout, Aulin is excited to start playing again in a markedly new environment.
"I know a lot of guys on the team and knowing the coach, Scotty Atkinson, is going to allow me to play the game I want to play which involves being creative and skilled and working hard," he said. "Right now,w I just want to have fun, play with the Dinos, try and win a championship and get an education. Right now, I'm just focusing on playing here and seeing what happens."
With Aulin's enthusiasm and experience, many hope to see great things from the Dinos this year.
"We expect him to be the best player in the league," said Atkinson. "We're going to be looking at him running the powerplay, for sure. It's not just that he's a really good hockey player. He's a really great guy."
Aulin is currently an open studies major with plans to attend the Haskayne School of Business.
The Dinos have also recruited several other notable players with WHL experience to join the team for the upcoming season including Teegan Moore, Reid Jorgensen, Jeff Weber, Dan Ehrman and Drew Campbell.
With these experienced new players, the Dinos are serious contenders for CIS play this season.