It’s been a long haul with my family and my close friends that have pushed me here. Tonight is just a night where I am going to go out there … it’s for them, just for what they’ve put in for time for me and the guys that have built me up to who I am today. - Patrick Sieloff
SAINT PAUL, MN -- Arduous would be an apt word to describe Patrick Sieloff's young career.
At just 21 years of age, the defenceman has endured a multitude of injuries that would make veteran players shake their head.
During his junior career, in addition to the routine bumps and bruises, he suffered groin and hip injuries that limited him to 45 games in his lone Ontario Hockey League season back in 2012-13 with the Windsor Spitfires.
A bad break, no doubt, but he was able to make a full recovery ahead of the 2013-14 campaign. He had signed an entry-level deal with the Calgary Flames that off-season and after an impressive training camp that fall, the organization felt he was prepared to make the jump to the pro ranks.
He went off to Abbotsford, the then-home of the Flames American Hockey League affiliate, with high hopes for his rookie season but his year was quickly derailed.
After playing just two games, he was sidelined with what he thought was a simple fever. He had thought a few days of rest would ease his symptoms enough to get back in the lineup in short order but a visit to the doctor quickly shattered that idea.
Sieloff was diagnosed with a staphylococcal infection, stemming from an in-grown hair on his stomach.
Not the best news, no doubt, but Sieloff had dealt with staph infections before and had relatively mild reactions to them.
But that particular infection would be the worst he would deal with. He was immobile for a month and wasn't allowed to break a sweat for eight weeks. He was also hooked up to a portable intravenous, which had to be changed every 24 hours.
And to add insult to injury, he had an allergic reaction to medication he was prescribed.
Thanks to that hellish diagnosis, his freshman season in the AHL lasted all of two games.
Missing a year of development at that age is tough and Sieloff had a steep learning curve during the 2014-15 season in Adirondack. At times, he played on the team's fourth line as a winger to ensure he was getting ice time at the AHL level.
This year, he has skated in 48 games with the Stockton Heat, collecting two goals and 11 points.
After that onerous and sometimes-exhausting path, being able to make his NHL debut tonight means a lot to the blueliner and his family.
"It’s hard to put it into words," he told CalgaryFlames.com on Saturday morning. "It’s been a long haul with my family and my close friends that have pushed me here. Tonight is just a night where I am going to go out there … it’s for them, just for what they’ve put in for time for me and the guys that have built me up to who I am today. I just want to thank my family and friends and I’m excited for them."
His parents, Pat Sr. and Cindy, and his girlfriend will be making the trip from their home state of Michigan to watch him play, making his evening's match-up even more meaningful for Sieloff.
"The people that have been around me that have been supportive. The staff here, the organization as a whole. Just overwhelming, the people to thank … I couldn’t name them (all).
"It comes down to my parents sticking with me and telling me I’m going to be alright. I’m excited for tonight."
Flames head coach Bob Hartley witnessed Sieloff's long road to recovery from the staph infection and understands how important tonight's game is.
"Patrick Sieloff, I think it’s also a great moment for Sieloff. Gosh, he’s been injured early in his career, major injuries," he said. "To be able to play his first game tonight … I saw this kid work in the gym countless hours tonight in Calgary and I’m very, very proud for him."
While he was shocked to get the call yesterday morning in Stockton, his first recall came at a point where he is feeling very comfortable with his game. He is hoping to carry that poise into tonight's game against the Wild and not let nerves get the best of him.
"I think lately I have been playing some of my best hockey. Simple and hard-nosed and just getting shots on net. It’s been working out well for me.
"It’s nothing that I’m going to change ... the way I play, it’s just going to be a good first pass, good gaps, hopefully get some shots on net. Like I said, just enjoy every moment of it because this only happens once, your first game. It’s pretty special."