My Journey to the NHL - Kyle Wellwood
|Drafted in the fifth round of the 2001 draft, Kyle Wellwood hasn't had the easiest career. He's continued to battle criticism from the public regularly but is always to show why he deserves to be in the NHL.
In the last three seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Wellwood amassed 108 points (31-77-108) in 188 games. Last year, he had 21 points in 42 games - a total he's already matched this year in 41 games.
At 25 years old, he's only just getting started and his work ethic and philosophy will no doubt help him have a long career ahead of him.
Wellwood shares his tales on his road to the NHL.
How old were you when you got your first pair of skates? |
I started skating when I was two years old. I had my own backyard rink – there was a big pond across the road that all my cousins skated on with me too.
I think the best way to learn how to skate is to watch others and then do it yourself. I don’t think it takes any special teaching, you’ve just got to watch other people do it. When you watch other people when you’re young, you’ll be able to skate.
I was a country kid so you were kind of just let loose – they gave you skates and you skated. There wasn’t any special coddling or teaching involved - trial and error. I don’t think I fell too often though.
I can remember my little brother skating for the first time and I think he was two and he could skate. I think it’s just being around it when you’re young and you’ll be able to pick it up.
What was your first hockey team?
An Essex minor hockey team – the Blue team, I think and I was probably five years old. I think it was the last team I was captain of so I remember being captain of that team. I remember getting 10 goals in one game but I had so much more practice than the other kids at that point.
Growing up, the rink was my...
How did you get into hockey?
My family, my cousins, everybody played hockey but my dad took it upon himself to build an ice rink for me and that’s what gave me a place to learn the game.
There wasn’t a lot of hockey except for at my house because I live right by the pond so I was kind of in the centre of it all.
What role did your family have in helping develop your career?
They were always supportive and let me play as much as I wanted. Hockey was always my priority and they never challenged that.
|What is your favourite hockey memory?
I think just making the NHL. My first game, I got scored on my first shift but it still didn’t take the smile off my face because I was really happy to play.
I was 20 years old and the game was against Ottawa. I think it was Chris Neil that scored – it was a tough one.
What is your proudest hockey moment?
It would’ve been making the World Junior team in 2001. It was just fun to play for team Canada, it’s such an honour and a hard thing to do that it was really special to me.
I got a goal in that tournament so it definitely made that experience better.
Who was your hockey hero growing up?
I had lots of them but my favourite was Alexander Mogilny because I think he had a lot of skill and I like the way he played. He’s a good goal scorer.
I think maybe our personalities are similar but hockey-wise we’re different players, he’s a lot more skilled than I am.
I’ve met him and I played with him on his line once at training camp so that was a nice experience.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
You’ve got to work everyday to survive everyday in this league.
That’s something that I use as a focus. Paul Maurice told me that.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in your career?
I think the perception that I’m carefree. It motivates me to work hard everyday to prove them wrong.
What advice would you give to someone trying to get to the NHL?
I would say to practice and be prepared for a long journey because it never gets any easier and it’s going to be hard everyday.
Do you ever still get the feeling like this is unbelievable that you've made it here?
Just to stay in the League you have to know how hard it is and you definitely don’t want to lose it once you’re here.