It’s a generational thing, of course. Throw out the name Pat Verbeek in search of a reaction and it elicits only a blank stare.
“No,” confesses Ryan Lomberg. “Sorry.”
But when informed that Verbeek’s nickname through a 19-season, 1,400-start NHL career was The Little Ball of Hate, a sense of kinship replaces confusion.
“Now that,” Lomberg admits, “I like. That I can relate to.”
What kind of handle, then, could be affixed to Ryan Lomberg?
The Tiny Fist of Disdain?
The Smallish Projectile of Dislike?
“Nope. Don’t have a nickname like that,” he concedes. “Hopefully it’s something I’m working towards, though.”
40 hopefuls went through physicals on Day 2 of the Flames development camp Tuesday out at WinSport, all with the same aim in mind: to make an impression on the decision-makers down at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Ryan Lomberg is someone with a style, an attitude, that demands attention, as everyone hereabouts discovered at the 2015 development camp and subsequent Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, B.C.
Moving from collegiate hockey, the undrafted left winger’s first full year at AHL Stockton last season produced 13 goals, 29 points and 127 PIM, second most on the Heat. An encouraging base to work from, considering.
His progress, that raw, almost visceral edge married to an indefatigable energy level, convinced the organization to upgrade Lomberg to a two-way NHL/AHL contract in late March.
A quantum leap for someone who’d spent much of 2015-16 with Adirondack of the ECHL.
Then again, not much, including proving people wrong, is capable of intimidating Lomberg.
Ryan Lomberg skates through a drill at the Flames’ 2016 training camp Rob McMorris
“I don’t,” laughs Stockton teammate Andrew Mangiapane, “think he’s scared of anyone.”
Or any thing.
“The bigger the bear,” says the 5-foot-9 Lomberg, “the better.”
Giving away six inches and 32 pounds to Trevor Gillies with the gloves shucked? No biggee. Surrendering nine inches and 45 pounds to Jarred Tinordi? Part of the gig.
“It’s who I am,” Lomberg reckons. “I think my parents instilled that in me. Whatever you do, be passionate about it. Don’t be afraid. Do the best you can – don’t cheat yourself.
“The only time my dad was ever disappointed in me was when I didn’t give my maximum at something. That’s stuck with me.
“Conditioning is something that’s very important to the style of game I play. I’m excited to show them here this week how far I’ve come. It’s a learning curve, understanding how to be the most efficient, impactful pro. The last two years I’ve discovered a lot about myself.
“I know you need that first NHL game, then you have to establish yourself.
“But I also know where I ultimately want to be: I want to be playing for the Flames. I want to win a Stanley Cup.
“You have to aim high.”
That self-mandated trajectory has transformed the all-in/flat-out Lomberg into a fan favourite at Stockton Arena.
“Ryan’s a smart enough guy that he saw a spot he felt he could step into,” says Heat boss Ryan Huska. “Once he got in there, he realized how much success he could have.
“When he’s on the ice, everybody knows he’s out there. He’s full of energy, antagonistic. But he brings more to the game than just the feistiness/agitator-type role. He’s a very important person in our team. Maybe ‘engine’ is the best way to put it.
“Once you have your foot in the door, have the trust of the people around you, you can branch out a little bit.
“We could put him in a skating race against anyone on our team last year and Ryan would beat him. He has tempo, pace, and that’s what I mean about an ‘engine.’ Whenever a line was struggling, we’d put Ryan out there to help get it going again.
“His ability to get on top of people created a lot of turnovers.”
Nearing 23, attending his third Flames development camp and having pushed his way into the Stockton framework, Lomberg’s looking for that proverbial next step to receiving an NHL audition at some point over the winter.
“I’m doing my job when the other team is worrying about me, and not about the game,” he says. “I like to, let’s say, take their minds off the task at hand.
“When the best player on the other team is busy chirping at me instead of scoring, that’s when I’m really enjoying myself.”