Those years of toil and traipsing in the trenches, grinding away at that faraway dream. All of it?
Glenn Gawdin has officially made it.
Now, for the very first time, after three years developing at the minor-pro level, the 24-year-old is set to enjoy the intensity, panache, and pageantry of the NHL's regular-season lid-lifter.
And there's nothin' else like it.
"It feels great," said Gawdin, who was named to the Flames' opening-day roster after getting a getting a brief audition late last year. "I thought I had a good preseason and obviously the summer, this was my goal. For it to happen right now, I'm happy and I'm looking forward to what's next.
"It was definitely a pleasant surprise. Throughout the preseason, I was confident and comfortable with how I was playing.
"But nothing's for sure.
"I think everyone knows that in the hockey world, so I was taking it day by day and doing what I could to stick around."
Gawdin was one of the feel-good stories of training camp with a solid showing at both ends of the ice. He appeared in six of the Flames' eight exhibition tilts, tallied twice, added one helper and - perhaps most importantly - caught everyone's attention with an impressive, 57% night in the faceoff circle on Oct. 6 against the Winnipeg Jets.
"Exit meetings last year, I knew I had a chance," Gawdin said. "That was obviously a big focus for the summer.
"When they're saying, 'You have a chance,' it's up to me to go out there and take it. I trained pretty hard and I think it worked out so far.
"Obviously, I had a couple goals in the preseason, so that definitely helps, but trying to reliable, try to be good in the faceoff dot - do the things that you get that confidence in your game, but also you get the trust in the coaching staff."
Video: Glenn Gawdin has turned plenty of heads through camp
Ask anyone around the Scotiabank Saddledome over the past few years and they'll tell you - it was only a matter of time.
The 6-foot-1, 191-lb. pivot is too talented.
Too polished not to be in this position, at this point in his career.
Certainly, the goal - now - is to remain in Calgary beyond the first few days. A whole season's worth of big-league employment is what the Richmond, B.C. native, naturally, craves.
According to Head Coach Darryl Sutter, he's put in the work, both mentally and physically, to make that a reality.
"The key with Glenn is, he's primarily played - if you look at his junior career, and then his pro career - at the higher end of the lineup and could get away with a lot of things that you can't at the NHL level," Sutter explained. "So, you have to understand where you're going to play and fill that role, and then excel at it. I think was pretty clear to him at the end of the year last year.
"And then he worked at it this summer.
"The mindset is not just getting quicker, getting stronger - those are easy things to tell players. A lot of it is … 'How am I going to play in the NHL? What do I have to do to play in the NHL?' And that is as a fourth-line guy, an identity line-guy, or that type of player.
"I think he did a good job of understanding that and then applying it, and then he had a good camp."
For now, Gawdin figures to play in the fourth-line centre spot, with injuries to Tyler Pitlick and Brad Richardson - along with a one-game suspension to newcomer Blake Coleman - cracking the window open just that much more.
So, the question remains: How?
How do you make your case and stick around a while longer, even as those banged-up bodies make their eventual return?
"Help this team win," Gawdin said, assuredly. "I think we have a good team. We have a week here of practicing to get ready for (the season-opener). I'm trying to do what I can to help this team succeed and be a playoff team and hopefully go for a run.
"But for right now, get a good first couple games and go from there."
Gawdin, who was originally drafted by the St. Louis Blues, but then signed as a free agent with the Flames in 2017, has three seasons under his belt with the club's affiliate, the Stockton Heat.
He had four goals and 13 points in 22 games in last year's abbreviated, Canadian-based campaign, and was nearly a point-per-game player in 2019-20 - scoring 47 points (16G, 31A) in 53 nights under the big top.
It's been a long road.
But, it appears, the seven-game cup-of-coffee last year only fueled the fire.
"I wouldn't necessarily say it's a struggle," Gawdin said. "(But) it's definitely a grind coming up in your development.
"That's the biggest thing, realizing that sometimes you're not going to be the player you were in pro as you were in junior, midget or teams in the past.
"For myself, I was just trying to do whatever I can to be here and whatever role that would be."