FanPost

Cult Heroes - Kris Russell

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The wonderful thing about watching sport is that every single person can have an opinion about something and it doesn't necessarily make them wrong. Some people see games one way, and others another. You may think one player is truly superb, and the guy next to you can think he's not worthy of lacing another guy's boots. We all take different things away from games.

Let me explain where I'm going with this. I'm from the UK, and I've been a fan of soccer for most of my life. My team is Sunderland, the former home of US midfielder Claudio Reyna, former Canadian international Danny Dichio, and most recently the employer of Jozy Altidore. Throughout the ages Sunderland have seen some of the greatest players to ever play the game. Horatio Carter, Len Shackleton, Charlie Hurley and Kevin Phillips are all names in soccer that are known for being greats of the sport, and while they're respected and adored, they are often not the most loved ones.

There is a more of an affection for industrious workhorses, the kind of players who may not be the best, but will give you 100% commitment all game long. Recent examples of these include John Kay - famous for breaking his leg and rowing himself off the pitch - Nyron Nosworthy - who could not pass a ball but knew how to make a tackle - and the current captain Lee Cattermole, who will cover the entire pitch in one match and still not be able to find a teammate. Over here, they're called "cult heroes".

With this in mind, I tend to apply this to when I'm watching hockey too. It started when I began watching the league over here, the EIHL, and started to follow the Sheffield Steelers. While Jeff Legue and Joe Talbot are legends at the club for their scoring prowess, my heroes from that time are the nitty-gritty types, the defencemen in Steve Munn and Randy Dagenais who would take no nonsense and put their bodies on the line, the industry and speed of Rod Sarich (brother of Cory) in breaking out from defence, and the immense workrate of Doug Sheppard that truly stood out for me. They were the players I indentified with.

It's why I admired former Flame Stefan Meyer so much while wearing the Steelers jersey - he could score, but he put every ounce of energy he had into working hard for the badge on the front. Even this year, while others are fawning over the scoring talents of Mike Forney, my favourite player is Tyler Mosienko, a player with a point to prove (Google it) and the workrate to match.

This is why some of my favourite Flames aren't necessarily the highest scorers. I was always a fan of Jarome Iginla, but he was never my favourite. I love the way Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie have stepped up and brought it this year, and I'm extremely impressed with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, but they're not my favourites. My favourites have always been the ones who left everything on the ice after every shift. I've always been a fan of Cory Sarich. Robyn Regehr was a favourite of mine. You know they're not the best, but they give everything they've got for the cause. That's why my favourite Flame this year is Kris Russell.

The Caroline, Alberta native is not the most talented player the Flames have, not by a long stretch. However, what he lacks in talent, he makes up for with passion, commitment and workrate. He isn't afraid to throw a hit if necessary. He's a good quarterback for the second powerplay unit. Most of all, he would die for that flaming C. He never gives up on a puck, and will literally lay his body on the line if it helps the Calgary cause, which it has 218 times this season. Last night against the Bruins, Russell blocked 15 shots that would otherwise have ended up on goal. Sportsnet put out last night that the tally of 15 in one game is the highest by any player since 2005, and it has since been confirmed that it is an all-time NHL record.

Just think about that. David Jones got taken out by a puck to the knee last night. Those pucks are travelling at great speed, with great force. Russell put himself in front of those shots 15 times. Both Russell and Dennis Wideman are decryed for not being good offensively, and people who say that have a point. They're not great going forwards, but for me they more than make up for it at the back end. You believe that they, and in particular Russell, would die for the Flames, and that makes him, in my eyes, a cult hero.

I've only been watching the Flames properly since 2008 - hockey coverage over in the UK hasn't been great up until recently, and even then the Flames aren't on TV much. So I feel I've probably missed many more players like Russell, who have laid their bodies on the line for the greater good of the Calgary Flames. I'd like to hear from you about these men. Reach out to me on Twitter (my handle is at the top of the page next to the author) or leave a comment on this post, and I'll do some research into them. I want to write more of these pieces about players who may not have been the most talented Flames, but they may well be the most beloved.