Leafs’ prospect Jerry D’Amigo knew from the beginning what it would take to excel and if he forgot, his father, Jerry Sr., was there to remind him.
A Binghamton NY native, D’Amigo scored six goals in the tournament as Team USA beat Team Canada in the final of the World Junior Hockey Championship.
Not bad for a player considered a step too slow, a player thought to be a long shot even as he entered the US Hockey program.
To understand how he went so far, so fast, you need to consider his Dad, Pete, as seen through his son’s eyes.
“I was very young, maybe 10 years old. My dad always wanted to push me, always wanted me to work hard all through my life. He would have me running on a treadmill.
“One day he set a goal. I said I couldn’t do it. He turned off the treadmill and went upstairs. I sat there for 10 minutes. I was a kid, I was crying. He came back down and said, ‘Are you ready to work hard?’ I said I was. He turned the treadmill back on.”
“You think he’s the meanest guy, but he was showing me something.”
The five-foot-ten D’Amigo has been showing people something ever since but when he was chosen in the sixth round, 158th overall at the entry draft in Montreal last year, he knew there was another level in him that had gone untapped.
“It was no fun to sit in the stands in Montreal and wait as long as I did, but it motivated me,” he said.
“I didn’t really have a training schedule the year before. After the draft I got a personal trainer, I did a lot of work with a power skating coach. I set goals. I wanted to make the World Junior team. I wanted to prove to all the teams who passed on me that they made a mistake.”
So far, so good and D’Amigo has noticed a change in how he is perceived based on the World Juniors.
“I feel I got a little more respect after the tournament. People can talk about if where I went in the draft was right or wrong, but I went to that tournament wanting to prove I had a lot more to offer than they thought.”
Conscientious defensively, the 19-year-old D’Amigo heads into his sophomore season at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute after carding 34 points in 35 games. It was an outstanding finish for a freshman and it looks like D’Amigo has worn out his underdog status.