First NHL Game
My second year of pro hockey, I was expecting to make the Big Club out of training camp. Unfortunately for me, the GM of Anaheim made a trade for a veteran defensemen, Todd Simpson, which bought me a one-way ticket to the minors, compliments of Bob Murray. I had a hard time dealing with the demotion, and got off to a terrible start for the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks that year.
Around the middle of December I got a call from Team Canada looking for a defenseman to play in the Spengler Cup, a tournament played every year in Davos, Switzerland. Of course I accepted the opportunity to play for Team Canada! After winning Gold, I flew back to Cincinnati with my head held high, ready to have a better second half of season. When my plane landed on New Years Day my sticks and equipment were nowhere to be found.
After reporting my missing bags with the airline, I hopped in a cab and headed home. Right when I walked in the door, my head coach called to inform me that Anaheim wanted me to play my first NHL game in Buffalo the next night. My first reaction was to be ecstatic that my NHL dream was finally coming true. My second reaction: I have no sticks, skates, or any equipment for that matter. Needless to say I panicked. A million thoughts were running through my head. How would I score my first NHL goal without my sticks?
Luckily my parents live an hour from Buffalo and have a minor obsession of collecting my hockey antiques, and offered to drive me some gear. I could hardly sleep that night I was so excited for my NHL debut. The next morning in Buffalo, as I was sitting in the locker room chatting with Steve Rucchin and Dan Bylsma, my dad walks in with my hockey bag from when I was twelve, some old sticks, and a huge smile on his face. Of course the guys took full advantage of the situation and asked me if he was going to tie my skates and tape my stick too. Joking around in the locker room always lightens the situation, and in a weird way lets you know the guys accept you.
I’ll always remember that game with a laugh. We ended up losing the game, but I played 16 minutes, and I’ll never forget when the coach, Mike Babcock, came up to me after the game and told me I was the best defensemen that night. Even better than that, was coming out of the locker room to see 23 of my closest family and friends, all there to cheer me on.
I can’t wait to tell my son Noah the story of my first NHL game when he’s old enough to understand. Of course, I may have to add in a couple of goals and a fight.