Known for 17 years in Calgary as the type of guy who’d block a shot with his face to win an exhibition game, Mark Giordano’s ultimate act of selflessness came in the dying hours of his storied Flames tenure.
“Going through this process just tells you about the guy,” said general manager Brad Treliving, who spoke “hourly” with his captain leading up to Seattle’s decision to draft the fiercely loyal defender.
“He’s telling me, ‘you’ve got to make the smart play here — remember, I’m 38 years old.’ As much as he’s dying to stay here he looks at it through, ‘what’s best for the long-term interest of the club.’ Totally selfless all the time.”
Simply put, no team lost more to the Seattle Kraken on Wednesday than the Calgary Flames.
For the Flames it’s a devastating blow at a crucial time, depriving a reeling organization of its leader and its poster boy for perseverance, hard work and dedication.
He was their best defenceman and the one guy on the team whose give-a-crap meter never ran low on batteries, no matter how many setbacks the Flames endured.
“In a lot of ways the last 24 hours have been very difficult, very emotional,” said Treliving, who held out hope he could keep his captain right up until Tuesday night when reality set in that the asking price from the Kraken couldn’t be met to keep him in the fold.
“We don’t have enough time here today to talk about what Mark Giordano means, and has meant to this team, this community, to his teammates and the fans and myself personally.
“He’s a tremendous leader. I’ve said countless times he has been the moral compass of this team for a long time. His moving on is the closing of a really important chapter in this franchise. This is part of the cruel side of the business of hockey. Seattle got a great, great man today.”
And yet, an organization that knew several years ago Seattle would come calling for someone still allowed this to happen.
Fact is, by committing to trying to climb back into the playoff race last season this became inevitable.
That said, Giordano was right — this was the right move.
The team had to protect Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson and Chris Tanev ahead of him and couldn’t justify coughing up valuable draft picks to keep the soon-to-be 38-year-old.
“In order for this not to happen it was a price that we couldn’t pay,” said Treliving, who said off-season trade options weren’t available for the $6.75 million player.
“If there was a way we could have done it, within reason, for this not to happen, we certainly would have pursued it. Mark understood the situation. At the end of the day we were looking at ways to not make it happen, but you have to make business decisions. It’s a sad day with Gio leaving.”
Giordano agreed, admitting the reality he’d be leaving the only NHL organization he’s ever known hit hard when saying goodbye to teammates late Tuesday.
Yet, true to form, there was Giordano, walking out in front of thousands of enthusiastic Seattle fans Wednesday to usher in a new opportunity for a man who has overcome endless setbacks with an attitude and work ethic that will likely make him Seattle’s first captain.
“This is the first time in my career that I’ve ever been drafted, so thank you to the Kraken and I’m excited to be here!”
Welcome to Seattle, Mark Giordano!#SeattleDraft | #SeaKraken pic.twitter.com/WaDVwgp1lW
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) July 22, 2021
Kraken GM Ron Francis agreed No. 5 would be part of the captaincy discussion come training camp.
“This is a guy who has a reputation around the league, just the way he plays the game and takes care of himself and everything he does in the community,” said Francis. “We get a chance to establish our culture from Day 1, and we certainly want him to be a part of that.”
It’s a two-way street, as the Kraken have already been able to give Giordano something no other team has.
“It’s the first time in my career I’ve ever been drafted, so thank you,” laughed the Norris Trophy winner in front of the crowd, adding some levity to a day that couldn’t have been easy.
“I’m not gonna lie, it feels a little bit different. It’s been a crazy last day or so. It was a little bit weird yesterday knowing I wasn’t going back to Calgary.”
Giordano said he’d been in constant contact with Treliving throughout this uncomfortable process and said it wasn’t until he officially appeared on the unprotected list last weekend that he started to realize his storybook run in Calgary could be over.
“I obviously understood this could happen, but I thought it was up in the air right until the end,” said Giordano, who walked on as an OHL hopeful and wound up playing 949 games as an undrafted free agent signing in Calgary.
“It was a weird 24 hours for sure but after the initial shock I was excited to get out here and check out the city and I’ve had a good day. I’ll just keep trying to move forward. It will be a new opportunity for me. It’s something fresh and I’m going to turn that into a positive.”
Of course he will, that — and his award-winning charity work — is what he does best.
“I think a big part of my goal here is to get to know the community, and city of Seattle, and create relationships,” said the winner of the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award. “I created so many great relationships in the city of Calgary and I look forward to doing the same here in Seattle.”
His ability to positively impact everyone around him will endure.
“Since I’ve been here my first talk to all our young players is, ‘when you get to Calgary you’ll see a stall that’s got No. 5 on it — watch what he does,” said Treliving.
“Just do that, and you’ll be alright.”