New start for former Flame

Perhaps the writing was on the wall for Jim Vandermeer when the Calgary Flames obtained the exclusive rights to negotiate with pending free-agent defenceman Jay Bouwmeester at the NHL entry draft in late June.

Perhaps the writing was on the wall for Jim Vandermeer when the Calgary Flames obtained the exclusive rights to negotiate with pending free-agent defenceman Jay Bouwmeester at the NHL entry draft in late June.

But it’s not like it was a dirty joke on a bathroom wall.

At roughly the same time as the Flames made the Bouwmeester deal with Florida, they traded Vandermeer and his $2.3 million salary to the Phoenix Coyotes.

Was Vandermeer devastated? Hardly.

“That’s part of the business,” the rearguard who captained the Red Deer Rebels to a Memorial Cup championship in 2001, said on Tuesday at the Keg, where he presented a series of cheques — from funds raised during the 2009 Young Guns golf tournament — to nine Central Alberta charities.

“The way it’s structured now with the salary cap, guys seem to move around more often. But you have to make the best of your situation. In Calgary I was kind of getting pushed out. I was playing less and less and with the guys (free agents) they (Flames) brought in this year, obviously there wasn’t room for me concerning the money part of it.

“As far as going to Phoenix, it’s going to be a real good opportunity. It’s a really young team that seemed to play very well at the end of last season. It will be interesting to see how it works out.”

Clearly, the Coyotes wanted Vandermeer for his toughness and leadership abilities. And the Caroline native is determined to deliver for an organization that showed interest in the now 29-year-old prior to him signing with the Philadelphia Flyers as an undrafted free agent in 2001.

“I’m not getting any younger and I’ve known that (the Coyotes) have wanted me for a long time,” he said. “When I was a free agent I know that they were one of the teams that were trying to get me. It will be a good opportunity. I’ll get to play a lot more minutes and I’ll just go out there and do what I do.”

Besides being thousands of miles removed from mounds of snow and minus-30 winter temperatures, Vandermeer sees another advantage in playing in Phoenix. His new head coach is the one and only Wayne Gretzky.

“That definitely will be very cool. He’s one of those guys I grew up watching,” said Vandermeer. “I’ll get a chance to talk to him soon and see what he’s all about.”

Vandermeer would be advised to enjoy his winter in Arizona; with the messy ownership situation surrounding the team, who knows where the Coyotes might be located a year from now.

“That’s the way it goes. Nobody really knows what’s going on and besides, those are things that are out of our (players’) control,” said Vandermeer.

“This year it will be business as usual and we’ll worry about next year when it comes along.”

• The Young Guns golf tournament and fund-raiser in June cultivated $79,000 for various charities, and Vandermeer and New York Islanders forward and Red Deer native Trent Hunter also obtained 30 sets of hockey equipment — donated by the NHL Players Association — which will be distributed to needy children in Central Alberta.

It was three years ago that Vandermeer and Hunter put the Young Guns name on the tournament formerly headed by Ryan Smyth.

“All we’re trying to do is give back a bit to the Central Alberta communities who supported us as young athletes,” said Vandermeer.

gmeachem@bprda.wpengine.com

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