As J.T. Compher stepped off the ice from a summer skating session, he was all smiles.
The 6-foot, 193-pound forward had been hard at work during the offseason after having an impressive first professional campaign in 2016-17 for the San Antonio Rampage and Colorado Avalanche.
Compher started the year with the Avalanche's American Hockey League affiliate in San Antonio and went on to spend four months in the AHL, appearing in 41 games while scoring 30 points (13 goals and 17 assists), before getting recalled on March 1 to Colorado. His NHL debut came the next night at the Ottawa Senators, and he never went back to Texas as he finished the season with the Avalanche.
"I thought it went really well," Compher recalled of his initial game with the Avs. "I was lucky enough to have some family fly out for the first game. Overall, it was a whirlwind of a day."
It didn't take long for the Northbrook, Illinois, native to get acclimated to the NHL and make his mark. Seven games later on March 15 against the Detroit Red Wings, he scored his first NHL goal and in no better way than in a victory at home in front of his family once again.
"To have it in a win against the Red Wings was great," he said on notching his first marker. "It took a few games, but once I got the first one it helped me get more comfortable with my game."
After 21 outings in the burgundy and blue sweater, Compher ended his NHL campaign with three goals and two assists.
His post-season break did not last long, as he wanted to put in more time and energy into developing his game for the 2017-18 campaign, one in which he hopes to spend its entirety in Colorado.
"The plan right now was just to get ready for training camp," the forward said. "Obviously, I have experience to lean on from last year in those 20-plus games. I was trying to see what I could work on and make sure once training and rookie camp starts, I would be ready to compete for a spot and make sure I am here full time with the Avs."
While Compher was putting in more work on the ice, he was also dedicating part of his summer to something near to his heart.
Growing up in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Compher played for the Northbrook Bluehawks organization and he continues to care about youth hockey in his hometown. The Bluehawks made a large impact on getting him to where he is today, and Compher wanted to give back through a charity hockey tournament.
"I played for the Bluehawks through my peewee years, playing youth hockey, and I met my best friends through that organization," he said. "Hockey has given me so much in my life, not just a career, but so many memories.
"We actually named it the J.T. Compher and Family Tournament because of how much the Bluehawks gave to me and my family. I just want to keep as many kids in the game of hockey because of how much it has given me."
Compher and his family started the J.T. Compher and Family Northbrook Hockey League Scholarship Fund, which gives financial aid to families in need in help cover dues, equipment and other costs for their children to play hockey in the league.
When it was finally time for the 3-on-3 tournament on Aug. 12, his hard work was displayed with a great turnout.
"It was awesome," Compher said. "We had right around 46 teams and 275 kids. We had games from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., a raffle and an auction. We were able to raise a lot of money, and it's going to help kids keep playing the game of hockey."
The event included players from mites to U-18, making for a well-rounded and exciting day.
"It was cool to see the different levels of hockey and see how much support we had in the area," he said. "It was doing something where the kids can have fun, not a lot coaching and where it is hockey in its purest form."
After such a successful first run for the tournament, there is potential for future tournaments and fundraisers to continue to support families in need.
"We had a lot of people the day of the event say they would love to have us do it again," he said. "We haven't put in a ton of thought into the next few years, but there is some interest to keep it going."
Whether Compher was putting in the work on or off the ice in the summer, there is no doubt hockey is in his heart. He will continue to flourish because of it and help give the game to others along the way.