When it was time to get serious about playing hockey, Derek Dorsett didn’t have any suitors. Not only were teams not knocking on his door, they didn’t even know his address.
It didn’t help that no matter how hard 15-year-old Dorsett tried, he kept getting cut in pursuit of midget AAA hockey. He attended nearly 10 camps in two years and couldn’t latch on.
“I cried after every time he got cut because I knew he was better than three or four of the guys on the team they’d take instead,” said Dean Dorsett, Derek’s father. “That rejection adds character and he’s strong because of experiences like that.”
Some players are touted, scouted and drafted at every level they play. Others, like Derek, have to dig a little deeper.
Dean provided the shovel.
“I had had enough and I didn’t want to play hockey anymore and my dad talked me into sticking with it,” explained Derek. “He said I had the skill to make it and playing a year in my hometown might be the right thing to do.”
It was, and with dad behind the bench as coach, Derek soared.
Listening to Dean speak of his son’s rise through the hockey ranks is as impressive as it is thorough. And it should be. According to Derek, his dad only missed a handful of games until he moved away from home. Even then, Dean has always had a pulse on what’s going on with Derek.
Dean can read Derek’s body language on the ice like a book. He knows when his son’s temper is flaring, when he’s in the groove offensively and when it’s just not his night. Dean also knows when to push and when to let Derek be.
The biggest push of Derek’s career came from his father and the cliché is true, he wouldn’t be in the NHL without it.
At 17-year-old, Derek was playing for his hometown Kindersley Klippers in the SJHL. He was comfortable, according to Dean, and hockey was fun. But it wasn’t a challenge. He led the Klippers in penalty minutes and scoring and was a force on the power play and the penalty kill.
That caught the eye of the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers.
“He pushed me to make that next step,” said Derek. “I didn’t want to leave my team in the middle of the season to go to Medicine Hat, but he said this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. He pushed me in the right direction, but he let me make the decision. He said it was up to me and I was the one who was going to have to live with whatever choice I made.”
Dad remembers the story a touch differently.
“I wasn’t that nice about it,” he laughed.
“I let him make his own decisions but when he told me he wasn’t going to Medicine Hat, I sat him down. It was time. Listen up. I told him: if you want to play hockey, you’ve got to go to Medicine Hat. You have a decision to make, if you want to be a hockey player, you’ve got to step up. You can’t just sit here in your comfort zone, you’ve got to test yourself. You’ve got a door that’s open now, either walk through it or shut it because your chances of going to the Western Hockey League next year are slim to none.”
Ultimately Dorsett went to Medicine Hat and it was hard on him, but it was right for him. Four life lessons his father had instilled in him helped make it a little easier.
“He always preached the four Ds to me: determination, dedication, desire and discipline. He really hammered those home to me and it got to me and helped me a lot – especially the discipline one…I still have trouble with that one sometimes,” he laughed.
Funny, Dean made the same joke.