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Dillon Dube relished NHL debut in front of friends and family

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

Dillon Dube had every reason to be nervous.

With nearly 19,000 fans in the building, another half-million more comprising a national television audience, and a swath of veterans and long-timers looking on, the weight was a lot to bear.

Still, none of that mattered when he took to the ice Wednesday at Rogers Arena.

In his mind, there were only five in the house that night.

"My family," Dube said, pausing to find the words. "To be able to play in front of them, it meant the world to me."

His parents, Paris and Suzy, billet family, Vinay and Sarah, and his 81-year-old grandfather, Bob, were all on hand to proudly watch Dube live out his lifelong dream on the National Hockey League stage for the first time.

Assuredly more restless than the 'kid' below at ice level, they - along with Flames fans everywhere - nearly jumped out of their seats early in the youngster's first contest.

With the Canucks leading 1-0 late in the opening stanza, Dube took a breakaway feed from fellow rookie Juuso Valimaki, carved his way to the net and calmly released the first shot of his NHL career, destined to make the highlight reel.

Jacob Markstrom had other plans, though, and the would-be milestone was coolly shoveled aside to keep the rookie off the board.

"If it was any other breakaway, I probably would have gone to a move I've done [before]," Dube said. "But when you're nervous and come in flying like that…

"I feel like if you get a chance like that right away in your first game, you take it as a confidence-booster instead of a miss."

From the exhilarating buildup to the emotional, yet comical aftermath, all within a second or two, the TV broadcast caught each exasperating, frame-by-frame moment of it from the stands.

Dube had only seen a portion of his family's reaction on a hallway monitor after the first period. When we showed him the full clip following Thursday's practice at the Scotiabank Saddledome, he couldn't stop smiling.  

"That might be the most excited I've ever seen my dad," he laughed. "If I scored, I think he would have stayed sitting down. That was hilarious. World Juniors, every time I scored, he would just give it one of these (a golf clap), and then someone else scored and he went crazy. I'm like, 'Thanks...'

"Seeing that now, it's pretty funny. I'm sure it was nerve-racking and overwhelming for them, too.

"It's amazing to be able to share this experience with the people that matter most to me."

Video: Flames TV catches up with Suzy Dube

Dube, who played alongside veterans Derek Ryan and James Neal, and had brief auditions with members of the top unit following powerplay assignments, finished with two shots in 9:07 of ice time.

He was involved all night, and single-handedly created much of the Flames' high-danger offence in the opening 40 minutes.

"Right after the anthem, I just tried to buckle down and within the first five minutes of the game, it felt like another game," he said. "When you have that mindset, you don't worry about it being your first game.

"You just want to help the team win."

That, following a rather unceremonious introduction when Vancouver defenceman Erik Gudbranson floored him with a questionable open-ice hit mere seconds into his NHL career.

Gudbranson was given a minor for interference, and Travis Hamonic settled the score with a spirited bout shortly after the penalty expired.

"It shows how big of a leader (Hamonic) is," Dube said. "I can't thank him enough for what he did. … When you do that for a teammate, it means a lot.

"That's the presence he has. I was even nervous to go talk to him, because I didn't know if he'd be mad at me for having to go fight. He was really happy about it. He was proud. I can't say enough about that leadership.

"That really makes me feel welcome in the room when somebody will go and do that for me."

Indeed, Dube is now a full-fledged member of the crew. A part of the family.

The nerves are no more.

And finally, after years of tireless work to get to this point, the Cochrane native will get to suit up under the 'Dome in the Scotiabank Home Opener.

"It's Saturday night in Calgary," Dube said.

"It's going to be awesome."

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