COLUMBUS, OH - Eric Comrie was practically running on empty, but the adrenaline kick from a late-night phone call was more than enough to keep him in high spirits at his first NHL skate some 12 hours later.
Comrie was enjoying a post-game meal with his sister and her three kids when the phone rang. It was Assistant General Manager Craig Heisinger, who told the 21-year-old to pack his bags and that he was off to Columbus, where the Jets had just arrived to play their final road game of the 2016-17 season.
"It was their first time watching me, so it was pretty exciting having them there when I got the news," Comrie said.
After a mad dash home to gather his things and get a few hours rest after making 35 saves in a 3-1 Moose victory earlier that night, the 4:45am alarm sounded.
His dream was about to take flight.
Comrie arrived in time for the 2:00pm practice at Nationwide Arena, looking right at home in the blue paint as Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine and others put him to work.
Video: PRACTICE | Eric Comrie
"I instantly called my family, got home, packed up, got to bed around 2:00am, up at 4:45, flew here and practiced," he said, still winded from the brief practice. "I'm pretty excited."
Best of all? He'll have his brother, former NHL player Mike, as well as a number of other family members on hand to share in this, a dream come true.
(His older brother Paul, who also played in the NHL, might not be able to make it in time.)
Eric learned a lot from his two brothers growing up and is grateful for their guidance, love and support over the years to help him get to this point.
"They worked so hard every single day, and were so committed to the game and to getting better," Eric said. "That was always the biggest thing I saw and it really instilled a passion in myself and a drive to get better every day."
Comrie admits that, especially this late in the year, he wasn't overly concerned about whether or not he'd a shot in the final few games. But now that it's happened, he plans to make the most of it.
"I wasn't paying too much attention to it," he said. "I was watching their games and I knew they were playing well, but for myself I just focusing on my play down there and trying to get better for the Moose."
Comrie has been a workhorse in each of the past two years with the Moose, appearing in 94 of Manitoba's 147 regular-season games, including 29 of the past 35.
Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice
In 48 games this season, Comrie has a 17-25-2 record, along with a 2.98 goals-against average, a .906 save percentage and two shutouts. He has also faced 1,443 shots, which is the second-most in the AHL.
"He's had two really good years, has battled hard and played big minutes," said Head Coach Paul Maurice. "He's a guy that at his size needs to play a couple years pro to get a feel for the game. He has excellent low coverage and real good positioning in the net, and we've known all along that he's has high a character a person as we have in our organization. His compete level, his positive attitude - there should be a payoff for doing the right things all the right. But, you have to play well and he's played well."
Comrie's debut will be his 100th pro game, with the 99 before it coming with the Moose and St. John's IceCaps over the past few years.
"I was very fortunate last year to play a lot of games. But it's the same thing this year as it was last year. Every day is a new experience and if you can get as much (experience) as you can, it makes you better in the long run."
Comrie was drafted in the second round, 59th overall, in the 2013 NHL Draft after spending four seasons in the WHL with the Tri-City Americans, where he led the league with a .925 save percentage in 2013-14.
"He's getting pretty much the same speech," Maurice said. "It's a bit of a different animal in that you can make a mistake up front [as a forward] and no one's going to call you on it, but everyone points at you if you do there. We'll tell him to relax and enjoy it."
"You've got to treat it like any other game," added Comrie. "I've been preparing for this moment my whole life. … I'm just going to enjoy it. I'm going to stick to what I've known my whole life and hopefully it works out."
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com