British Columbia

Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames: Ferocious Ferland leaves a mark

We take a look at Calgary rookie Michael Ferland's past as he literally and figuratively leaves his mark on the Vancouver Canucks-Calgary Flames playoff series.

The toast of Calgary is public enemy No. 1 in Vancouver, and Gino Odjick is partially responsible

Calgary Flames' Michael Ferland, left, struggles as he fights with Vancouver Canucks' Kevin Bieksa during third period NHL first round playoff hockey action in Calgary Sunday. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Given the crazed rage on Kevin Bieksa's face at the end of Sunday's Canucks-Flames game, you can assume he won't be lining up to wish Michael Ferland a happy 23rd birthday today.

Ferland and Bieksa fought in the dying minutes of the Vancouver Canucks' third playoffs game against the Calgary Flames — with a 4-2 Flames victory already assured.

The Canucks had been out-played and out-hustled, with Ferland's agitating ingenuity setting a high emotional temperature for Calgary that Vancouver just couldn't match.

He registered 10 hits, including a thunderous check on Luca Sbisa, which was likely responsible for Sbisa's nervous turnover that led to Calgary's first goal.

Vancouver Canucks Luca Sbisa is checked into the boards by Calgary Flames Michael Ferland during first period NHL first round playoff hockey action in Calgary Sunday. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Late in the third, with the Flames about to take a 2-1 series lead, there was nothing for Vancouver to do but engage in the age-old hockey tradition of 'sending a message.'

Bieksa collided with Ferland on the end boards and seized on the opportunity to land three solid punches on the rookie before the refs stepped in. For the Canucks it was battle won, war lost.

Canucks' new public enemy No. 1

Interesting story Michael Ferland.

Hockey fans in B.C.'s Lower Mainland may recognize the name from his short stint with the Abbotsford Heat, Calgary's old farm team.

Or they may recognize him from the 2012 headlines when he was charged with two counts of assault after a bar fight. He was found not guilty, but the incident proved to be a symptom of a much deeper crisis — an addiction to alcohol.

It was around that time Flames head coach Bob Hartley arranged for Ferland to meet and talk with Gino Odjick.

Hartley had coached Odjick in junior hockey, and thought there might be a synergy between the two given their similar backgrounds.

I never ever thought I'd quit drinking and be sober for a year and be where I am right now.- Michael Ferland, on March 27, 2015

Ferland grew up in Swan River, Man., the middle child of three in a family raised by a single mother. He played minor house hockey with the help of KidSport and the Manitoba Métis Foundation.

At age 15, he caught the eye of the triple-A Brandon Wheat Kings, advanced to Major Junior and was drafted by Calgary in 2010 in the fifth round.

Clean and sober for a year

But by 2012, Ferland's hockey prospects were dimming. He was overweight, out of shape and struggling. He was even thinking about quitting hockey altogether.

Meeting Odjick, and hearing what he had to fight through a generation earlier to play in the NHL, struck a chord. If Gino could do it, so could he. 

Just last month Ferland celebrated one full year of being sober.

"This is probably one of the biggest days of my life," he said on March 27. "I never, ever thought I'd quit drinking and be sober for a year and be where I am right now."

Clean and sober and making a name for himself in the NHL playoffs. Also not a bad place to be.

And as for all that hitting, Ferland's mom wants him to lay off the Sedins.

About the Author

Karin Larsen

@CBCLarsen

Karin Larsen is a former Olympian and award winning sports broadcaster covering BC teams and athletes for 25 years.

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