‘I’m living my dream’: Flames’ call-up Adam Klapka completes climb to NHL

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It wasn’t necessarily a look-yourself-in-the-mirror moment.

But Adam Klapka, before he scored an NHL contract and then an NHL call-up, did ponder the possibility that he’d grow accustomed to glimpsing his own reflection in a just-installed pane of glass.

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Klapka’s father owns and operates a window company. And as Adam started his pro hockey career back home in the Czech Republic, the undrafted right-winger wondered if he’d be better off joining the family business.

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He was reflecting on that internal back-and-forth earlier this week when he received the news that he was being recalled by the Calgary Flames.

“It was so emotional for me,” Klapka said. “You know, I almost quit hockey, like, two years ago because I was playing in the second-highest league in Czech and we didn’t make much money. So I started thinking about the future. I mean, I love to play hockey but it was like, ‘OK, I need something to change, some good thing to happen.’

“But after that, right after that, I got the call to the first team and I got there and I was successful there. And after that, I got signed with the Flames. So everything went well.”

Sure did.

Because on Saturday night, against the arch-rival Edmonton Oilers, Klapka was tapped for his big-league debut.

After his solo lap, the customary intro for any NHL newbie, the 23-year-old was slated to skate alongside Adam Ruzicka and A.J. Greer on the fourth line.

His proud parents, Thomas and Radka, were in attendance at the Saddledome. As soon as their son was promoted from the AHL’s Wranglers, they hustled to book flights from Prague to Calgary.

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“It’s going to be probably, again, my best day in my life,” Klapka beamed after Saturday’s morning skate, repeating the same thing he said earlier this week after his first practice with the club. “I’m going to enjoy it, but obviously you want to play good hockey, play your game, so I’ll be ready.”

While there wasn’t much information available when the Flames signed this little-known big man to an entry-level contract in the spring of 2022, fans were immediately fascinated with his measurements. Listed at 6-foot-8, he made history Saturday as the tallest player to ever suit up for the franchise. The Canadian Elite Basketball League’s Calgary Surge might ask if he wants to play in the paint this summer.

Klapka arrived as a raw prospect, but the Flames have been tickled with his progress over the past season-and-a-half with the Wranglers, encouraged by his determination to provide a hard-nosed presence and impressed with his soft hands. There have been whispers around the rink that special-advisor-to-the-GM Jarome Iginla, a guy who knows a thing or two about success as a power forward, is especially intrigued by his potential.

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In 102 career appearances so far at the AHL level, this skyscraping right-hander has contributed 27 goals and 50 points. If you follow the farm team, you’ve witnessed this same sequence several times — Klapka, from his net-front position on the power-play, swivels toward the back-door and blasts a one-timer for a man-advantage marker.

“For his size, he skates really well so it’s going to be important that he is good with his stick and he is hard on the forecheck and he is responsible for his minutes that he’s on the ice,” said Flames bench boss Ryan Huska prior to Saturday’s Battle of Alberta. “And the one thing that he does have, too, is a sneaky skill-set. I’m assuming tonight you won’t see a lot of that because he’ll keep his game very simple, which is a good thing for a young guy getting his first taste.

“Tonight, it’s more about being a harder guy to play against and using his size to his advantage.”

It’s hard to imagine that just over two years ago, after spending parts of two seasons in the Junior A-level United States Hockey League and then heading home to start his pro career with HC Benatky nad Jizerou, Klapka considered calling his dad to ask for a job.

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That conversation never happened. Thank goodness.

“Yeah, I’m pretty happy,” Klapka said. “I’m living my dream now.”

ICE CHIPS: The Flames were without two regular forwards for Saturday’s Hockey Day in Canada capper against the Oilers. Martin Pospisil suffered an upper-body injury Thursday and Huska told reporters that the rookie sparkplug “won’t be in the lineup for the next few games, for sure, and we’ll see how he goes from there.” Dillon Dube was also unavailable, with the coach explaining that he was “not feeling well” … Top prospect Matt Coronato was recalled from the Wranglers and plugged into Pospisil’s usual spot on the second line.

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