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'MY LIFE IS HOCKEY'

Jeremy McKenna wasn't drafted but he doesn't plan to let that keep him out of the NHL

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

Dreams aren't solely reached, ambitions exclusively fulfilled, down a one-way street.

"There are a hundred different roads to get to the NHL," reminds Jeremy McKenna. "It's been proven time and time again.

"Guys from all over the world make it. Guys from all kinds of different leagues. Late bloomers. Early bloomers. First-round picks. Guys who were never picked. Guys who spend four or five years in the American league. Guys who step right into the NHL from junior.

"As I said, there are a hundred different ways.

"My life is hockey.

"So I'm gonna find one of those ways. And I'm gonna make it.

"The draft didn't happen for me so I'm going to find another way."

Bypassed in the last two drafts despite posting 77- and 97-point seasons (including 45 goals this past campaign) for the QMHL Moncton Wildcats, McKenna is attending this week's Flames Development Camp on an invite after accepting a similar audition from the Dallas Stars.

His teammate, frequent linemate and good pal Jakob Pelletier is indisputably one of the stars of the annual summer prospect show here, of course, having been selected first, 26th overall, by Calgary at the NHL Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver last month.

"We actually looked at (McKenna) as we went later in the draft," acknowledges Flames' GM Brad Treliving, as Day 2 of on-ice/conditioning draws to a close out at Winsport. "He's been through the draft as an overage now.

"We wanted to bring him in here and take a look. He's got a knack for doing the thing that's real hard - putting the puck in the net. And he's been productive his whole career.

"Obviously he and Jakob have a history together. So it'll be interesting to see him here this week."

McKenna watched the June 23 draft from in front of the family TV set in Summerside, PEI.

"I was thrilled for Pelts. No one deserves it more. I don't begrudge anyone getting picked.

"That was his opportunity. I need to find a different opportunity. That's all.

"We're all in the same boat, right?

"I consider him one of my best friends. Back in Moncton, we drove together, played together. He's an amazing kid. Calgary's lucky to have him.

"He's going to be one of those guys, when teams look back are going to be shaking their heads, saying: 'Why didn't we take that guy?!'

"He's got it all: Hockey sense, heart, speed, can score, penalty-kill. Flames fans should be really excited."

 

 

And personally?

"He's a prankster. Always laughing. Always joking around. And you might not think so but he's loud - really loud.

"I'd pick up Pelts every day for school, around 7:30 to be there by 8. Every day he'd run out down the driveway and tap his feet together before he got in the car. Tap his feet. Every day.

"I mean, it's 7:30, early, you're tired, maybe a little out of sorts, and here he is, every day, running down the driveway and tapping his feet together."

Like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz tapping her glass slippers together three times to go back home to Kansas?

"Exactly. I thought it was hilarious."

McKenna knows that it'll take more than a foot tap for him to find an NHL home. It'll take work. Persistence. And happening upon the right fit.

"There are a lot of ways to make it," he repeats. "The draft didn't happen for me, so I'm going to find another way.

"Whether it's a free-agent invite here or a chance somewhere else. I'm just going to keep grinding until I reach the next level.

"Being here, though, this is a dream come true for me. I grew up cheering for the Calgary Flames. I know everyone says that in this situation but honestly, I did.

"Jarome Iginla was my favourite player.

"Calgary's an amazing organization. To get a chance to showcase what I have … hard to pass up that kind of opportunity.

"I was actually born here, in Canmore. I lived there until I was six years old. My dad's from Charlottetown so we moved to PEI.

"And that's where I live now.

"But the Rocky Mountains are in my blood."

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