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NHL debuts are unforgettable

Saturday, 10.11.2008 / 6:42 PM / Realizing The Dream

By NHL.com Staff

Young players making their NHL debuts aren't the only ones fighting butterflies in the stomach.

"About 10 Rolaids and I was OK," Thrashers coach John Anderson told reporters after a 7-4 win over the Washington Capitals. "I made it to the starting faceoff."

"It's been a long journey and a wonderful one," Colleen Anderson, the coach's mother, said. "He's so enthusiastic about the game of hockey, since he was 4. The biggest thrill he said was when he was only about a year old and his dad was playing hockey, and he put him up on his shoulders and skated him around the rink after the game."

Anderson did experience his first rookie mistake, but it came away from the ice. Two hours before the game when he took a wrong turn into the visitors' dressing room and had to be redirected by a security guard. "Oh, I don't know my way around here," Anderson grumbled to no one in particular. Caps coach Bruce Boudreau got a chuckle at his friend's expense. "He's always wanted to work with me."

Anderson's mom wasn't the only family member in Atlanta Friday night. The parents of Zach Bogosian and Bryan Little also were in attendance to see Bogosian's debut and Little's 2-goal effort.

In Dallas, rookie James Neal scored his first NHL goal with his folks and godparents in the American Airlines Center stands.

"It felt great," Neal said. "It was great to get the first one out of the way."

In New Jersey defenseman Anssi Salmela was content to dream of a career in his native Finland as a kid. He didn't give the NHL much of a thought.

"Some kids say, 'I'm going to play in the NHL,' but not me," he said. "I was very happy that I played in the Finnish league. That was good for me. But, of course, everybody dreams of playing in the NHL. I didn't believe I would make it."

 
 
Well, he did, debuting in the Devils' 2-1 win over the Islanders.

Blake Wheeler of the Boston Bruins had an unforgettable debut Thursday night in Colorado, where he scored on his first NHL shot to help the Bruins to a 5-4 win over the Avalanche.

"The guys have been great to me," Wheeler told reporters. "They're experienced; guys I've looked up to. To be out there with them is a huge privilege for me, a huge thrill."

With the score tied 1-1 in the first period Thursday, Wheeler followed a Bruins rush, took a pass from David Krejci and ripped a one-timer past Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj.
"Some kids say, 'I’m going to play in the NHL,' but not me.  I was very happy that I played in the Finnish league. That was good for me. But, of course, everybody dreams of playing in the NHL. I didn’t believe I would make it."Anssi Salmela
"I don't know if you could write it any better," Wheeler said. "To go in there (Colorado) and get a road victory was the ultimate goal. But to score a goal was a pretty cool deal, too."

Calgary's Adam Pardy will have mixed memories of his NHL debut Thursday. He was thrilled to play in the NHL, but losing a 6-0 debit to the Canucks took some of the edge away.

A Newfoundland native, Pardy's family and friends were burning the midnight oil to see him play. The game started at 7:54 p.m. Pacific time, which made it 12:24 a.m. in Newfoundland.

"I haven't talked to anyone yet back home ... but I'm sure there were people watching. What else are they going to do?" he said after Friday's practice.

The folks at home did get to see plenty of Pardy. He had 20:53 minutes.

"It was exciting," he said. "At the start, I got a little nervous, but as the game went on, I felt more comfortable and a little more confident."



It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery