By Brett Fera
Arizona Rubber Magazinewww.ArizonaRubber.com
Just a typical two-week span for a typical American college student.
Except, in reality, for 19-year-old Kyle Turris, it was anything but typical.
And it’s not like Turris himself is just some ordinary Joe.
On Sunday, April 30, Turris, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, saw his team’s national title hopes come to an end in the Badgers’ 3-2 overtime defeat at the hands of No. 1 North Dakota.
According to published reports, Turris was back in the class the next day at UW, only to leave Madison midweek once he knew the Coyotes’ brass wanted him to make his NHL debut just hours later against the Dallas Stars - in Phoenix’s home finale, no less.
“He goes from playing college hockey on Sunday to playing against the Stars on Thursday," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky told the Arizona Republic. "That's a pretty good leap in four days."
Gretzky was right. Four days later, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound forward – the third overall selection of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft by the Coyotes – made his debut.
And although he failed to register a point on the stat sheet that night, Turris’ debut was a big one.
For one, he was placed on the ‘Yotes’ top line, centering captain and team stalwart Shane Doan
on one side and rookie sensation Peter Mueller on the other. The team’s last home game of the year also set a season mark for attendance, with 18,340 (104 percent of capacity) on hand at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale to see the future of the Coyotes in action.
Turris said it took him a shift or two to get in a groove, but nerves weren’t really a problem.
“I think warmups was the biggest thing. I came out flying, saw all the fans clapping their hands and all,” said Turris, normally wearing No. 19 on his sweater before debuting with No. 91 on his sleeve since 19 is already taken by fan-favorite Doan. “I think it was really neat. My first shift I was starstruck.”
Added Doan: “He was pretty calm. We had a kid coming into a situation like that, and I can’t believe how calm he was. Just a confidence among himself; not cocky, just confident.”
Turris said having the chance to skate alongside a pair like Mueller, who finished fourth among rookie scorers in the NHL in 2007-08, and Doan, the last Coyote still on roster from the team’s playoff days earlier this decade, certainly made his debut a breeze.
“Playing with those two just makes everything easier,” he said. “They’re just phenomenal hockey players. I had the puck on the tape every time. It’s a great feeling.”
Turris finished the season officially with one point (an assist). He hit the back of the net once, but it technically didn’t register on the statsheet since it was during a shootout.
“It’s been extremely exciting, very eventful. I’ve learned so much already,” he said, adding that heading back to the bench after each shift and seeing good ‘ol No. 99 staring at him was the ultimate welcome-to-the-show moment.
“He’s there to learn from and he teaches so much that I’m just trying to be a sponge and learn as much as I can,” Turris said of Gretzky.
Just a few days later, once the Coyotes ended their season missing out on the playoffs, Turris was slated to head back to Wisconsin, where he was expected to finish out the semester and resume life as a regular college kid.
At least that was until Team Canada called, asking Turris to join the all-star roster of NHL players at the Canadian National Team’s training camp late last month.
“It’s still hard to believe,” Turris said after that first Coyotes’ outing. “But I feel like all the hard work is paying off.” Check out this Video montage of Kyle Turris' first day as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes!