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Blasts from the Past

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MIKE FORD HOME AGAIN
By Susan Nicol

When he speaks about the Jets, he switches from first person to third person and back again. But that's exactly how this season has gone for Mike Ford.

Ten games into the season Mike traded his Jet sweater for a Cowboy shirt. On the last day before the trade deadline he was back in a Jet uniform. You can't blame him for getting confused.

"Winnipeg is my home," he says. "I was very disappointed to leave and I'm happy to be back."

He says both trades came as a surprise to him.

"I really didn't expect to get traded at the beginning of the year," he says. "I tried to make the best of it, because I knew if I wanted a second chance I'd have to play well. I did my best hoping Winnipeg would keep me in mind."

He adds, "I must have kept my head just above water long enough for Winnipeg to throw me a lifeline."

Mike says he never really adjusted to Calgary's style of hockey.

"The play was very different," he says. "Winnipeg is a finesse club. They try to hang on to the puck and work it. Calgary just dumps it in, chases it and tries to rile the other team.

"I didn't enjoy much ice time and that's the name of the game. If you're not playing, you're not happy. That made it doubly worse, because I felt displaced being in a strange town."

He says he feels comfortable in Winnipeg, even though he hasn't been back very long. "I'm starting to play a bit more," he says. "Bobby (Kromm) is still experimenting. He's using me a little more sparingly than he did last year, but I'm just glad to be back. All I want to do is contribute in a small way."

He adds, "When you're happy you play better. I'm much happier and I feel that with a few more games I can get myself back to my full potential."

Mike started his hockey career with the Winnipeg Junior Jets. Half-way through the season he was traded to the Brandon Wheat Kings where Rudy Pilous was coaching.

In the following two years, Mike played for Detroit's Port Huron club in the minor leagues. In that time he made the all-star team and travelled to play-offs twice.

"After those two years my contract was up," he says. "So I called Rudy and he gave me a try-out with the Jets. I was able to hang on for the first year playing with Sjoberg and behind Bobby, Anders and Ulf. I seemed to enjoy a reasonable amount of success. Last year we played together again and we won the cup, so it was a pretty good year that way."

Mike is notorious for his shot from the point. The first game he played in familiar surroundings saw spectators ducking rubber in the greys.

"I think my role is to move the puck, get it up to the forwards and get them moving," he says. "We've got the fastest forwards in the league, I think, so it we can get the puck to them we'll be successful. Maybe if I can get a few good shots on the net I may get a couple of goals. But that's gravy."

Being part of the opposition for a time gave Mike an opportunity to assess the Jets from a different point of view.

"Calgary only beat us two games out of seven so it is difficult to say the Jets had a weakness," he says. "The smaller ice surface in Calgary cramps the style of a team like the Jets. We need the big ice for our 'wheelers and dealers'.

"Other teams try to run at the Jets and intimidate us, but we just keep coming. They try to get chippy and haul us down, but we're pretty good at getting power play goals. That makes the other teams shy away from taking stupid penalties."

He says team morale and fan support is lacking in Calgary.

"Calgary right now is fighting to hang on to their franchise," he says. "They're getting very poor crowds. The team, of course, can feel this and it affects the Cowboys knowing they're on shaky ground. Winnipeg, on the other hand, seems to enjoy a reasonable amount of support. The team is doing well and the players are happy so why rock the boat?"