Good things come to those who work hard.
Just ask Jeff Giuliano, who is currently enjoying his job as an assistant coach of the Manchester Monarchs in his home state of New Hampshire.
A native of the city of Nashua, Giuliano played college hockey at Boston College, and his senior year was the then AHL Manchester Monarchs' inaugural season. In the back of his mind, Giuliano thought about how cool it would be to play professional hockey in his hometown.
Boston College won the National Championship while Giuliano was a junior, and during his senior year, he was elected captain and went on to score 38 points in 35 games. This earned him a contract with the Manchester Monarchs, the LA Kings' minor-league affiliate.
Although he played a portion of that first pro season with the Monarchs' ECHL affiliate, the Reading Royals, he managed to maintain his status in Manchester for the second part of the season, never to return to Reading. Undrafted by an NHL team, Giuliano was happy to be playing the sport he loved in the city he grew up in. While with Manchester, Giuliano was voted 'Fan Favorite' for multiple seasons.
After Giuliano played in nearly every game his second season, he started getting looks from the big club.
"I think that's when the Kings realized I could maybe play in the NHL," Giuliano recalls.
In 2005, the year following an NHL work stoppage, the Kings signed Giuliano to a multi-year contract, and he reported to Kings training camp that September.
"Those guys who get drafted, they're expecting an NHL contract, but I was never drafted so, now there was hope," admits Giuliano, who was one of the last players cut in camp, after Frozen Fury. "When I was out there on an NHL contract and guys are getting sent down and I'm still there, I felt like 'oh wow, this really could happen.' Then being one of the last guys cut, that's when I realized just go down to Manchester and work hard and maybe I'll get that call. But it was just cool to get to play in those exhibition games."
Giuliano was only in Manchester for a couple months when he got that call that every minor-leaguer hopes for.
"I'll never forget it. It was a Wednesday, I got the call to Phoenix, Jeremy Roenick was sick," Giuliano chronicles.
He flew into Phoenix for the Kings' next game, but didn't end up playing.
"I was a little nervous I was going to get sent down and never play a game," Giuliano says.
He flew back to Los Angeles with the Kings on Friday, and got into his first NHL game the next night against the Nashville Predators.
That first year in the NHL, Giuliano was bounced up and back down to Manchester a few times, before spending the final months of the season in LA. His second year, he was called up at the beginning of December, and never went back down, and at the end of that season was voted the team's 'Unsung Hero.'
"The players vote on that, so it was kind of cool to be the unsung hero in their eyes, there are so many good players there," Giuliano says proudly.
Giuliano ended up playing 101 NHL games, all with the Kings. He scored his first NHL goal against the Calgary Flames with Miikka Kiprusoff in net.
"My biggest claim to fame is I had two goals the night Luc Robitaille became the NHL's highest scoring left-winger, so I got the last clip on SportsCenter," Giuliano laughs.
What made Giuliano's transition to the NHL especially smooth, was that he knew so many of his new teammates from the season before, when half of them were playing in Manchester due to the NHL lockout. The other players welcomed him as one of their own, and to this day, Giuliano maintains that camaraderie is one of the things that makes hockey players special.
"The way the hockey world is, you don't talk to somebody for a couple years, then you see them and it's like you saw them yesterday," explains Giuliano, who has seen Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar in the last couple of years.
For a guy who went undrafted and wasn't sure he was on an NHL path, hard work and passion for his craft went a long way.
"I was just having a blast, playing in Manchester because I was from here," says Giuliano from his home in New Hampshire. "I wasn't making a ton of money, but still playing pro hockey. I'm a local guy, so it was kind of cool and a lot of fun. There was really no pressure, I was just having a blast - I mean, I always have a blast playing hockey. After I got called up to LA, everyone was like 'oh man, it must be unreal.' You're in the NHL and it's unbelievable, but at the same time there's that much more pressure."
Continues Giuliano: "You're in the spotlight, any mistake you make, anything you do, you're on ESPN's 'Top Five Plays of the Night' on the wrong side of it. But that's what happens when you're in the best league in the world, that's why the guys are there, they can deal with that."
After playing seven seasons in Europe, following his LA Kings stint, Giuliano accepted an assistant coach's position with the Monarchs, now the Kings' ECHL affiliate, a position that he earned through his reputation as a person and player while in the Kings organization.
Giuliano describes his current situation as "surreal." He and his wife have two children, with another on the way, and they live two miles from work in a place he has called home for the last 15 years.
He is thrilled to be able to say he played with Kopitar, Brown and Jonathan Quick in their early days - players who are now two-time Stanley Cup Champions and the faces of the franchise he is still affiliated with.
"It was a great overall experience and I'm thrilled that I was able to play that long in the NHL, 101 games, and I'm glad it was with a great organization like that," Giuliano says.
As Giuliano will tell you, hard work and passion can certainly go a long way.