Adam Pardy almost gave up on a career in hockey before it even began. After spending his entire childhood playing small-town hockey with his brothers and driving three-and-a-half hours every weekend to play, the Bonavista, Newfoundland native thought he had reached the end of the road. He never imagined that ten years later, he’d be living alone in a hotel, far from Bonavista, playing out his dream in the NHL.
“At seventeen years old I finished high school back home and I never thought anything would come of hockey. It just kind of went away because the opportunity wasn’t there,” recalled the 6’4” defenceman, who was drafted by the Halifax Mooseheads in 2002 but failed to crack their deep roster. Instead, Pardy joined the Yarmouth Mariners in the Major Junior A Hockey League.
After playing only one game in Yarmouth, he was traded to the Antigonish Bulldogs and his QMJHL rights traded to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. Wanting to move up to a higher level, Pardy asked to be released but the Bulldogs refused. “When I got traded at Christmas time, I thought that was it. I didn’t play hockey from January until March of that year because I was trying to get released and trying to move up to the QMJHL.”
By graduation and the end of a frustrating season, Pardy planned to attend the University of Michigan on a scholarship and become a gym teacher. “I studied for my SAT’s all summer, I put all that into it. But after studying for a whole summer I realized ‘this might not be for me, I don’t know if I can do four whole years of this’. So I kyboshed that and went to Junior,” laughed Pardy.
His first year in Cape Breton playing for the Screaming Eagles, Pardy was paired up with Tim Ramholt, a teammate he would later play with once again in the ECHL. “He was a second-rounder to Calgary (in the 2003 Entry Draft) and we ended up being D-partners. I guess they were up watching him, saw me, and drafted me the next year. So I guess I got pretty lucky that way,” he smiled.
But the next few years weren’t easy. After being drafted in the sixth round in 2004 by the Calgary Flames, Pardy played another year in Cape Breton then bounced back and forth between the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights of the AHL and the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL. Finally in 2007, Pardy had a strong training camp with the Flames and was reassigned to the Quad City Flames. A great opportunity, but in a tough city far from home. “It was just a small city right outside Chicago, there wasn’t much going on there. It was a hard, hard spot. We were afraid to go out past sundown. It was pretty brutal, we had to be careful,” recalled Pardy.
The following year, the blue-liner arrived at training camp determined to stick this time around. “Again, I got lucky. Went to training camp in Calgary and we were so close against the cap, we had to make some moves. So two defencemen were on the chopping block just because of salary,” shrugged Pardy. “That’s how I got my foot in the door there. Darryl Sutter was the GM, he liked me and kept me on, (Mike) Keenan was the coach and he liked me, played me a ton.”
A good start, but an injury suffered early in 2010 caused him to miss most of the season. “I blew out my shoulder right at the start of the season. Missed twenty-five games, came back and played thirty, but after those thirty games it was just in such bad shape that it was falling out at the dinner table and it was just a matter of time before it fell out again. The doctors told me I had to get this surgery or it would just keep popping out again and there might not be much left to repair. So that ended my season.”
As a restricted free agent, Pardy signed with the Dallas Stars. Though he expected to play regularly, Pardy sat out for a good part of the season. “The year in Dallas was tough, really tough. A lot of things away from the rink were a little overwhelming at times. But once you go through that and you get through it, you realize decisions you made or things you did when you weren’t feeling good or didn’t feel like going to the rink and practicing, or your mind was somewhere else when you were trying to focus on a game, you realize there were bigger things in your head that you made out to be bigger. You just learn to deal with it and focus on your job. You have to want this.”
Following the season, Pardy was traded to the Buffalo Sabres on July 2, 2012. Then before the 2013-14 season, Pardy signed with the Winnipeg Jets as a free agent.
“You know, when I was 17 I didn’t think any of this would come from it but now that I’m here, it’s my whole livelihood. It’s what I’ve wanted since I was a kid, just to be in the NHL. Now it’s happened and I’m part of it and it’s something I want to hang on to,” said Pardy quietly, looking around the Jets’ locker room.
After living in hotels for four years and not having a home to call his own, Pardy still finds it a struggle. “It’s tough. There are days were you just want to hole up, close the curtains and just sleep all day, but you can’t let it overtake your life. You still have to be able to leave the rink at the rink, and when you go home you can’t worry about what the coaches are thinking or where your job’s going to go,” he said, the pressure and stress showing in his smile. “I’ve been around and up-and-down, and up-and-down again, and the reality is, you don’t know what’s going to happen. I could walk in tomorrow and hear ‘we’re going to put you on waivers’ or ‘you’re traded’. You just don’t know. But you can’t worry about it or you start getting the jitters.”
Playing on four different teams in four years makes it difficult to form lasting bonds in the locker room as well. “It’s been tough getting to know people and creating friendships and relationships with my teammates because every year it’s new trainers, new coach, new team, new staff. So it’s been kind of weird that way.”
But the Newfoundlander is finally starting to find stability in Winnipeg and settling in with his teammates. He’s even starting to look for a real home. “I just want to put something together where I’m not on the edge all the time, a little stability, to be able to be part of something that’s going to move forward. What we have here… I don’t think we realize what exactly we have. We have a ton of speed and a ton of heart. I think we have something here that can be special.”