On April 12, 20 year-old Canucks prospect Frank Corrado was tasked with checking players like Max Domi, in a must-win Ontario Hockey League playoff game between his Kitchener Rangers and the London Knights. Exactly ten days later, he’d find himself going head on against some of the best players in the NHL, in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. No, this wasn’t a charity game in Kitchener. Corrado was wearing the home blue and green colours of the Vancouver Canucks, in front of 18,000 fans, 10,000 more than he was used to throughout the year.
On Monday, Corrado posted online his personal thoughts through this crazy moment of his life, where he went from zero to hero, even getting named Third Star in his very first game.
The call I received for my first NHL game is one I’ll never forget. I was sitting in a hotel on a Saturday night in Rosemont, Illinois, and my hotel phone rang. I was alarmed because like everyone else, I have a cell phone. I picked up the phone and was told I’d be flying out to Vancouver to play my first NHL game on Monday. My body went into an instant state of shock and nervousness. I had to pay close attention to what was being said on the phone, but in my head there were fireworks going off. After I got all the details I arrived in Vancouver Sunday night and settled in to what would be my home for the next three weeks.
The road to the NHL isn’t an overnight journey, although I found out about the news and flew to Vancouver in one day. It’s an emotional time because of all the hard work you put in to being a hockey player. There are always the critics who say “he’s not good enough” or “he’ll never make it”, but when you finally make it to the next level, the level you’ve been dreaming of your whole life, it humbles you.
The next day was game day. I was getting ready to make my NHL debut versus the first place Chicago Blackhawks. Not an easy start to say the least. In my head I was telling myself all throughout the day that “this is where I belong”. That is the attitude that I believe put me in this situation to begin with, so why change now. I was familiar with the other players from being at training camp, and watching them on television. They helped me get comfortable in the room and the new surroundings of Rogers Arena. It’s a step up for me considering I was playing in front of 8,000 people for my former team, and now I was preparing to play in front of 18,000, and an NHL broadcast that could be seen around the world. Those are the things you think about after the fact, not during. After a day of preparation and learning new systems of hockey, it was time to play my first game. I prepared just like it was another game. No need to step out of my comfort zone. I did all the things before a game that I would normally do, because I believe those are the habits that got me to this point. Finally, it was time to take to the ice.
An old tradition NHL teams do is alive and well, they let a player playing his first game take a lap in warm-up by themselves. What a feeling! Skating on an NHL surface by myself in warm-up, almost saying “it’s my turn” in your head. The music is blaring, the newest of pump up songs, getting all the players fired up for tonight’s game. Before you know it, it’s time to head back into the dressing room for the last touches of concentration and focus before coming out for the game. During the national anthem I remember getting a tingly feeling in my legs, and before I knew it, I was getting ready to play my first shift. I ended up playing 17:30 of ice time in my first game, with three hits and a blocked shot. It was a successful game as we beat the Blackhawks 3-1. To top it all off I was named the third star. The second and first were these two other guys, they’re twins, and they’re really good at hockey. Daniel and Henrik Sedin, you may have heard of them.
It was an incredible turn of events that I’ll never forget and neither will my family. It is something that I worked so hard for and will continue to do so. The experience was made great by all the great people who helped me along the way, whether it was a few years ago, or a few minutes before puck drop.
I will never forget my first NHL game.
Vyas Saran is Vancity Buzz’s Canucks Columnist. Follow him on Twitter for more on the team, and NHL news via @vyassaran.
Photo Credit: CanucksArmy.com