If you’re reading this, at some point in your life you’ve probably dreamt about playing in the NHL. The odds are long, the journey is tough and, for the vast majority of us, the ultimate goal is never really within reach.
But for a select few, an NHL appearance is a dangling possibility and an honest goal to work toward.
As a first round NHL draft pick, expectations are that you’ll one day get a taste of – and make an impact in – the best league in the world, but that doesn’t make a call-up any less sweet when it does happen.
Just ask Columbus defenseman John Moore.
The 21st overall pick from 2009 earned his first NHL promotion Feb. 3, fresh off an appearance in the American League All-Star Game. Moore was back practicing with his Springfield Falcons team, but because of a little city traffic he and his roommate, David Savard, were late for the skate. After arriving, Moore was called into coach Rob Riley’s office, but didn’t expect what was about to happen.
“I definitely had no idea it was going to involve a call-up,” Moore said. “I thought it was maybe something to do with getting in the doghouse or having something to do with the power play or penalty kill. He told me ‘You got the call-up. You’re going to be going to Detroit tonight, best of luck to you.’ ”
And Moore was off. With his excitement boiling and nerves twitching the 6-foot-3, 200-pound defenseman had to get everything straight in short order. Moore rushed to gather everything he was going to need – from equipment to clothes to sticks – with the major distraction of a dream being realized buzzing through his mind.
“When I got back to the apartment I called my parents and let them know and they were really excited,” an exuberant Moore said. “They were ecstatic when I called and told them because obviously the sacrifices they made to make that dream become a reality.”
But not everything that day went as smoothly as planned, though nothing was about to dampen the brightest day in Moore’s professional life.
“I hadn’t eaten all day because I had to travel into Springfield from Chicago and my flight was cancelled in Chicago because of that huge snowstorm,” Moore explained. “So we stopped to get some Subway and I went back to the apartment to pack my bag and – my parents and I have been laughing about this for the past couple of days – I went to get something out of my car and the battery was dead.
“In terms of the priority list that was way down – nothing could faze me, I was in a great mood after getting the promotion.”
After talking to Columbus assistant GM Chris MacFarland, Moore was sent an itinerary that included information such as what hotel the Jackets were staying at in Detroit. Because Moore’s car picked an untimely moment to go out of commission, Savard gave Moore a lift to the airport: “Saved by the roommate,” he said.
Moore hopped on the next plane out of town and grabbed a cab to the team’s hotel in Detroit. When he got to his room he discovered his first NHL roommate, Anton Stralman, sitting on the bed watching TV. A simple “hey, what’s up?” from the Swede was Moore’s casual welcome to the big leagues.
After a long and exciting day, Moore settled in with a little room service and a quiet evening before things would ramp up again the following day when the Jackets were scheduled to play the Red Wings.
While Moore didn’t play in that game, he learned the ropes next to assistant coach Dan Hinote in the press box. Moore said he picked up on some of the team’s systems and was able to take notes on how some of the best players in the world do it – namely Nick Lidstrom.
It was the following night, Feb. 5, when Moore made his NHL debut at home against Edmonton. And the fact he’s a highly touted prospect who’d played in many big games in his career didn’t dull the excitement of being in an NHL dressing room.
“Man, it was just awesome – I’m really at a loss for words the past few days when I’ve tried to describe it,” Moore said. “I remember before going out for the first period Rick Nash tapped me on the shin pad and said to me, ‘Hey, no reason to be nervous. You’re here for a reason, just relax and go play the game and have fun.’ That was something that was really cool, I thought, for someone like him to do that.”
Moore played 12:05 and was a minus-1 in his team’s 4-3 win that night, but has been a healthy scratch each game since. He was returned to the AHL Tuesday, but you can bet he’ll be back enjoying the splendors of NHL life before long…and deservedly so.
“The way you travel – you’re flying everywhere as opposed to busing everywhere,” Moore said. “Matt Calvert and I were sitting on the bus – we had just flown into Pittsburgh and had got caught in a little commuter traffic on the way to the hotel and one of the older guys piped out how terrible this bus ride was. We kind of looked at each other and started laughing. The bus from the airport to the hotel is terrible? Man, he’s living the life up here.”
Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com’s web editor. His blog appears Tuesdays only on THN.com.
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