PHILADELPHIA -- Being drafted into the National Hockey League is unquestionably a memory of a lifetime.
Haydn Fleury got to experience that on Friday night, as he heard his name called out just seven picks in.
“I really don’t have many words to say,” Fleury said in his first media scrum as a Hurricane, conjuring up images of the “No Words” NHL playoff commercial. “It’s an unreal experience, and I’m very excited to be in Carolina.”
Making the moment at even more special was Fleury being greeted on the stage by two NHL greats: Canes Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis and assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour. Brind’Amour, one of the few members of the opposition cheered (loudly) by the quite rambunctious crowd at Wells Fargo Center, announced the team’s pick.
“It was absolutely surreal. Having Rod Brind’Amour call my name and Ron Francis being up there was unbelievable. Those two guys had great NHL careers and are both guys you idolize growing up as a kid,” Fleury said. “Being able to shake their hand and have them say, ‘Welcome to the organization,’ was an unreal experience.”
Fleury’s first contact with the Canes came throughout the 2013-14 season, the 17-year-old’s second full campaign with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. He met with the team in a more formal setting at the NHL Combine before again sitting down to talk just yesterday.
“I kind of had a good idea, but I didn’t really know if they were taking me or not,” Fleury said, adding that he met with 23 other teams at the Combine.
“You just get a feel for what the kid is like – his background, his family, what his habits are,” Francis said of the process. “At the end of the day, you’re just trying to get a comfort level that you think he’s a good kid, which he did. And we felt that he was a good player. We’re glad to have him.”
Fleury said he talked with Brent Sutter, who is the head coach of Red Deer and currently in Hawaii, before leaving for the Draft.
“He just said to take everything in,” Fleury said.
So that’s what he did, sharing his draft day experience with a group of 20-some family members – his parents, little brother, grandparents, cousins and aunts and uncles all included.
“It’s a pretty special day for my family,” he understated. “They’ve been pretty excited the last couple of days.”
After sliding on a Hurricanes’ red “14” sweater with his name adorning the back, Fleury proceeded through the usual gauntlet of media scrums, television and radio interviews and photo shoots that await the newly-drafted teenagers. Then, he popped up into the team’s suite, greeted by his cheering family members.
Then, maybe he would get his phone back from his mom, who took it from him earlier.
“She took it from me because she didn’t want me being on it,” he said with a smile.
So who will be his first phone call?
“I’ll probably talk to my great grandma,” Fleury said. “She’s 99 and back home watching, so I’ll probably call her first.”
Thus putting a book-end on a memorable day for Fleury and his family.