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Flames All-Time Countdown Chapter LVI: 255-251

In today's chapter, we check out center Garry Unger, left wingers Eric Nystrom and Steve Begin, and defensemen Ladislav Smid and Ken Sabourin

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

255. Garry Unger

Unger was born on December 7th, 1947 in Calgary, Alberta. A 5'11", 170 lb. center, he joined the Flames via free agency for their last season in Atlanta. He scored 73 points in 1966-67 with the London Nationals, needing just 48 games to total 38 goals and 35 assists.

After a 15 game debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs to start out the 197-68 season (one goal, one assist), Unger joined the Detroit Red Wings for parts of the next four seasons (216 games, 84 goals, 68 assists). That was followed by eight and a half seasons in St. Louis, where he scored 292 goals for the Blues, with 283 assists in 662 contests. The Blues traded him just as the 1979-80 season got underway to the Flames for Ed Kea, Don Laurence, and a draft pick (Hakan Nordin).

Unger was a remarkably durable player in the era before rehabilitation and in-season maintenance became commonplace. He missed a total of eight games in the 10 season period ending with his season in Atlanta. He played in 79 games for the Flames, one of nine players to play in 79 or 80 games. He ranked seventh on the team with 17 goals on 170 shots, earning 16 assists with a plus-2 rating and 39 penalty minutes.

Unger’s time with the Flames ended on June 6th, 1980 when Atlanta traded him to the Los Angeles Kings for Bert Wilson and Randy Holt. After his time in LA (58 games, 10 goals, 10 assists), he joined the Edmonton Oilers for three seasons (75 games, nine goals, 13 assists). He currently works for Banff Hockey Academy in Alberta.

All-Time Statline: 79 games, 17 goals, 16 assists, plus-2 rating, 39 penalty minutes, 1.72 point shares.

254. Steve Begin

Begin began his professional career after his selection in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft by Calgary, 40th off the board. Born on June 14th, 1978, the 6', 192 lb. left winger is a native of Trois-Rivieres, Quebec.

Begin played most of three seasons with Val d’Or Foreurs in the QMJHL starting in 1995-96, scoring 44 times with 73 helpers in 157 appearances. He got his professional debut at the end of 1996-97, appearing in four postseason contests for the Saint John Flames, where he got two assists and six penalty minutes. His NHL debut happened with Calgary in 1997-98, for five games in the month of October. He took two shots on goal, went scoreless, and spent 23 minutes in the penalty box.

1998-99 would see Begin spend his season with Saint John, scoring 11 goals with nine assists and 156 penalty minutes in 73 contests. In the following season, he scored 13 times with 12 assists in 47 games for the AHL club. He also rejoined Calgary for a total of 13 games. He earned his first NHL point on October 16th, an assist in a 4-4 tie with the Vancouver Canucks. On February 12th, he scored his first goal as the Flames dropped a 4-3 decision to the Phoenix Coyotes. He played 7:13 per game, scoring his goal on three shots and posting a minus-3 rating and 18 penalty minutes.

In 2000-01, Begin again spent most of his season back with Saint John, playing in 58 games for the club with 14 goals and 14 assists to go along with 109 penalty minutes. He joined Calgary for four contests as January turned to February. He went scoreless, took three shots on goal, and earned 21 penalty minutes in 6:04 per game.

2001-02 would see Begin play the whole season in Calgary, appearing in 51 games overall. He scored seven times on 65 shots, earned five assists, posted a minus-3 rating, and earned 79 penalty minutes in 9:25 per game. He had a goal and an assist on November 23rd in a 5-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. On December 29th, he duplicated the feat in a 4-3 victory against the Minnesota Wild.

Begin scored just three goals on 59 shots over 50 games in 2002-03. He tabbed one assist, posted a minus-7 rating, and earned 51 penalty minutes in 9:13 per game. On December 17th, he scored the first and game winning goal in a 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators. The Flames traded him to the Sabres with Chris Drury for Steve Reinprecht and Rhett Warrener after the season closed. The Montreal Canadiens claimed him from Buffalo in the waiver draft before the 2003-04 season.

Begin played with the Canadiens for five seasons (266 games, 35 goals, 31 assists, 275 PiM), later skating with the Dallas Stars (20 games, one goal, one assist), the Boston Bruins (77 games, five goals, nine assists), and the Predators (two games).

After playing in only two games in December 2010, Begin disappeared from the NHL for over two years. He signed on as a free agent with Calgary as the 2012-13 season became the 2013 season. In 36 games, he scored four goals on 31 shots with four assists in seven minutes per appearance. He scored twice on April 17th, including a shorthanded game winner in a 3-2 Flames victory against the Detroit Red Wings.

Despite playing in six different seasons for Calgary, Begin never enjoyed a postseason contest while with the club.

Bob Hartley spoke about the true value of having a Steve Begin on the team:

Players with the commitment of Steve Begin, I really believe that there’s not enough (of them) in the NHL. I always admired the way that he played. I look at the spirit, the leadership. Pretty amazing what he’s done for us.

All-Time Statline: 159 games, 20 goals, 20 assists, minus-15 rating, 214 penalty minutes, 1.73 point shares.

253. Eric Nystrom

Nystrom was a four year starter for the University of Michigan, and graduated with the Class of 2005. Born on Valentine's Day, 1983 in Syosset, New York, the 6'1", 193 lb. left winger was selected by the Flames in the first round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, 10th overall.

Nystrom scored 56 goals with 54 assists in 159 games as a Wolverine. When he turned professional for the 2005-06 season, he ended up playing in 78 games for the Flames AHL affiliate, the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, scoring 15 goals with 18 assists. He also played two games for Calgary in October, earning a minus-1 rating in 24 total minutes.

In 2006-07, Nystrom tore his right shoulder during the preseason, but initially attempted to play through it. His decision to rehabilitate it instead of undergoing surgery was ultimately unsuccessful, as he ended up playing in just a dozen games that season for the Knights, and scoring two goals.

2007-08 would see Nystrom play in 18 games for the Quad City Flames, scoring four goals with three assists at the AHL level. For the first time in his career, he would end up spending a majority of the season at hockey’s top level, appearing in 44 contests for Calgary. He totaled three goals on 42 shots with seven assists, a minus-5 rating, and 48 penalty minutes. He scored his first NHL goal on October 30th, as the Flames defeated the Nashville Predators, 5-1. In the season finale, on April 5th, he scored two goals and assisted on two others for a career high four points in a 7-4 win against the Vancouver Canucks.

In 2008-09, Nystrom played 76 games with the Flames, scoring five goals on 83 shots with five assists, a minus-7 rating, and a career high and team fourth 89 penalty minutes. Although he totaled only five goals, he made them count, with three of them being game winners. On December 29th, he scored a short handed game winner in the third period of a 2-1 Calgary win over the Wild. March 18th would see him break a 1-1 tie with the Dallas Stars with his fourth marker of the season with eight minutes left in the game.

Nystrom played in each of Calgary’s 82 games in 2009-10, one of four Flames to do so. He had 11 goals on 91 shots with eight assists in 13:11 per game. He also finished with an even rating and 54 penalty minutes. He had two game winners on the season and posted multi-point efforts on three occasions. On October 6th, he scored twice in a 4-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens. The Wild signed him after the season.

After Nystrom appeared with the Wild (82 games, four goals, eight assists), he played with the Dallas Stars (122 games, 23 goals, nine assists) and the Predators (79 games, 15 goals, six assists).

The biggest impact Nystrom ever had in a game with the Flames happened four years after he left. He exploded for four markers on January 24th in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Flames while playing for Nashville in 2013-14:

All-Time Statline: 204 games, 19 goals, 20 assists, minus-13 rating, 191 penalty minutes, 1.74 point shares.

252. Ladislav Smid

Smid was born on February 1st, 1986 in Frydlant, Czech Republic, and grew into a 6'3", 209 lb. defenseman. He was acquired by Calgary via trade from Edmonton just a month into his eighth NHL season, in 2013-14.

Smid got his start with Liberec Bili Tygri HC in Czechoslovakia, scoring twice with four assists in 88 games over three seasons starting in 2002-03. Before joining the Flames, he also played with the Portland Pirates (71 games, three goals, 25 assists), the Springfield Falcons (eight games, one goal, four assists), and the Oilers (474 games, 11 goals, 54 assists).

On November 8th, the Oilers traded Smid with Olivier Roy to the Flames for Laurent Brossoit and Roman Horak. He got on the scoresheet for the first time three weeks later, with an assist in a 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on November 29th. He only lit the lamp once all season for Calgary, in a 7-2 win over the same Ducks on March 12th. He is signed through the end of the 2016-17 season.

All-Time Statline: 56 games, one goal, five assists, minus-4 rating, 62 penalty minutes, 1.75 point shares.

251. Ken Sabourin

Born on April 28th, 1966 in Scarborough, Ontario, Sabourin played four seasons of OHL junior hockey starting in 1982-83, mostly with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. The 6'3", 230 lb. defenseman was a second round selection by Calgary in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, 33rd overall.

Sabourin scored just 13 times in 209 games with the Greyhounds, with 45 assists. After playing 37 more OHL games in 1985-86 with the Cornwall Royals (three goals, 12 assists), he joined the Moncton Golden Flames for three regular season and six postseason contests. He played in 75 more games for them the following season, with one goal, 10 assists, and 166 penalty minutes.

After his time in Moncton, Sabourin joined the Salt Lake Golden Eagles for most of the next four seasons starting in 1987-88 (249 games, 11 goals, 60 assists). He joined Calgary for his first NHL action in March of 1989, earning one assist in six games, on March 24th in a 4-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. He also earned 26 penalty minutes and a plus-3 rating.

In 1989-90, Sabourin appeared in five games for the Flames, spending 10 minutes in the box and posting a plus-1 rating. The following season would see his biggest impact with Calgary, in 16 games. He earned 36 penalty minutes and scored a goal on nine shots with a plus-9 rating. On October 27th, he scored a goal with two assists and a plus-7 rating in a 9-4 win over the Washington Capitals.

All-Time Statline: 27 games, one goal, four assists, plus-13 rating, 72 penalty minutes, 1.76 point shares.