One time only - NHL Game
It's a milestone they will only achieve once in their career and something they'll never forget. Canucks players talk about their first NHL game.
It's a milestone they will only achieve once in their career and something they'll never forget.
In hockey, like in everything else, there's a first time for everything and players remember some of those like it was yesterday.
After hours of practice, years of perseverance, and countless games, they've made it to the NHL and their first game is something that will remain with them forever. Players talk about their experience.
Defence, 79 NHL games
TEAM: Anaheim Ducks
FIRST GAME: January 2, 2007 @ Detroit Red Wings
SCORE: 2-1 L
The first game is always a big one and no doubt the nerves are through the roof but on top of that, it’s Steve Yzerman’s retirement night - now that’s a big deal. But Aaron Rome played on the other side for Anaheim at the Joe Louis in front of a crowd and a team that’s always tough to play, let alone on Yzerman night.
“It was a pretty crazy night. There was a lot of anticipation. We had a long break after warmup for his ceremony so it was pretty nerve-wracking.”
“I was so nervous and I had butterflies and I just wanted to get out there and start. The more time I had to sit there and think about it, the tougher it is but it turned out to be okay and you tend to build things up more than they really are. I got on the ice and it was the same game I’ve always played so it was fun.”
Rome was called up from the Portland Pirates of the AHL after an injury to Chris Pronger but that was the only game he played for Anaheim in the regular season.
“I got the call and I had a little trouble getting from Portland, Maine to Detroit because I missed a flight and got one delayed but got in on time and things worked out.”
He was paired with Shane O’Brien, who was in his rookie season, that night. Rome finished a minus-1 in 14:31 of ice-time. Later that season, he was re-called again and dressed for one playoff game, where the Ducks were the eventual Stanley Cup champions.
Biggest wow moment: I probably had a couple. Sitting in the dressing room with guys like Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne and then getting on the ice and skating against players like Henrik Zetterberg and Nik Lidstrom, guys like that. The game being on CBC on Hockey Night in Canada was also special and it was Steve Yzerman’s retirement night.
Looking back on it now, I can’t believe... That it was Steve Yzerman’s retirement night. What a great night.
Left Wing, 184 NHL games
TEAM: Los Angeles Kings
FIRST GAME: November 30, 2005 @ Chicago Blackhawks
SCORE: 3-2 L
Pre-game naps are part of the hockey player game-day ritual and it’s sacred. But for Jeff Tambellini, it wasn’t as peaceful as it should’ve been but that’s not a bad thing.
“I was sleeping for my pre-game in Albany and for some reason I didn’t turn my phone off and it started ringing. They said, get on a plane, you’re leaving in an hour.”
No, literally. This is how the phone call went:
“’Yup, you’re going up. You’re playing in Chicago. Your flight’s in an hour.’ It was pretty brief. He wasn’t sugar-coating anything.”
He played three years with the University of Michigan before making his pro debut with the the Kings AHL affiliate, Manchester Monarchs. While Tambellini scrambled to get on a plan for Chicago, the Monarchs ended up winning 3-2 in a shootout against the River Rats.
Tambellini saw a Blackhawks team that was quite different than the Stanley Cup champs today and hosted just 14,833 fans, which is almost 6,000 short of the numbers the United Center boasts now.
Nothing for Tambellini in the 24-hour span moved slowly and the rookie had to adjust quickly - from the travel to the ice.
“They threw me on the point on the powerplay my second shift in the NHL and I thought ‘Oh, wow, they’re really throwing me into it’.”
“They had the most aggressive penalty kill in the League so I was just trying to get through it and I think it was a great way to get thrown into it.”
He played 5:02 of his 9:23 total ice time on the powerplay that night.
He played four games with the Kings, before returning to Manchester and finishing the year, playing 21 games with the New York Islanders, where he got his first goal in the third game with the club against Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils.
Biggest wow moment: I think it was the call. I think when you get the call and they tell you that you’re going to play in the NHL, it’s such a crazy feeling because you’ve waited for so long. It’s such a great feeling to know you’re going to get to play the NHL so that was probably the craziest thing. Once you get going in the game, it’s just the game and what you do but that was the one moment that kind of got me.
Looking back on it now, I can’t believe... I can’t believe I made my flight. I was more impressed with myself about that than anything else.
Centre, 736 NHL games
TEAM: Vancouver Canucks
FIRST GAME: October 5, 2000 @ Philadelphia Flyers
SCORE: 6-3 L
Ten years ago before Henrik Sedin became an Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner, he was just another rookie with an unknown future ahead of him.
“I was nervous and excited. Mostly nervous though. We played Philadelphia and they had a really big team. A strong team. I was nervous to play them.”
He didn’t get any points in that game and played just over 13 minutes - quite a bit shy from the 19-plus minutes that he’s averaged for the past four seasons (including the eight games from this year so far).
Everyone knows the Sedin story. Henrik was drafted third overall in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, behind (or actually simultaneously with), brother Daniel, who was second overall.
Sedin came from playing in the Swedish Elite League with Modo, where he had 47 points in 50 games in his final season with the team. The Twins played with Trent Klatt, who was in his eighth NHL season.
“It was a long training camp and a lot of preseason games and then the game so there a was a lot of buildup.
“It was a big step for me. It had been a long journey to that point and my first NHL game was another part of that.”
He finished the year with 29 points in 82 games, which was 13th amongst rookies and fourth for rookie centremen, behind Brad Richards, the Calder trophy runner-up, who had 62 points. Steven Reinprecht (36 points) and Serge Aubin (30 points) were second and third, respectively to round out the top four.
Sedin was just one of three NHL freshmen to play 82 games through the 2000-2001 season. The others being Richards, who was with Tampa Bay at the time and Colin White of the New Jersey Devils.
Biggest wow moment: I think the crowd. Playing in Philly they had a big team back them and they were physically very strong. I think that was amazing.
Looking back on it now, I can’t believe... I didn’t score.