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Bathgate brings work ethic and skills to already stacked Plymouth squad

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The Plymouth Whalers acquired Andy Bathgate over the summer for more than just his bloodlines.

As the grandson of the NHL Hall of Famer with the same name, Bathgate came to the Whalers after three seasons with the Belleville Bulls to add a desirable work ethic and skill set to an already stacked Plymouth squad that some peg as the team to beat in the Ontario Hockey League this year.

"The trade from Belleville to Plymouth was brought up by me and my agent," said Bathgate, a 20-year-old from Brampton, Ont. "Going into your overage season, you want to play on a contender and I felt Plymouth was a good fit after I had heard there was some interest in me."

Plymouth coach Mike Vellucci said he's looking forward to hearing stories from his new forward about growing up with a celebrity grandfather.

"Andy's a good kid and I think he'll fit well with our systems here," said Vellucci. "I haven't had much time to talk to him yet and ask about his grandfather, but we have a road trip coming up and I'm sure we'll make time then."

In the summer months, the younger Bathgate works at a driving range and golf course founded by his father and grandfather. His grandfather, now 79, still works at the range seven days a week and it's during the summer that the grandfather-grandson bonding happens in spades.

"When we're together, we don't do much working," smiled Bathgate. "It's more talking about everything hockey. He is by far the best person for stories and pointers on the game. I don't think it will ever get old talking about him. I didn't realize until I was about 15 years old just how great of a hockey player my grandfather was.

"Hearing him tell stories of his playing days and seeing that Stanley Cup ring on his finger (from the 1964 Toronto Maple Leafs) every day is something else and I look forward to every time I get to see him."

Still, even with a famous grandfather, Bathgate never felt pressured to play hockey.

"Hockey has been an enormous part of my life, but I wouldn't say it's all I've ever known," said Bathgate, a 2009 Pittsburgh draft pick who didn't sign and is now a free agent. "I enjoy other sports like roller hockey and golf and academics are very important to both me and my parents.

"All in all, hockey has been and continues to be the biggest part of my life and really, the most enjoyable."

Now in suburban Detroit, Bathgate is getting acclimated to new surroundings in a new country ??? and taking in every bit of it.

"It's safe to say that Belleville and Plymouth are worlds apart," said Bathgate. "I loved my time spent in Belleville and met tons of very nice people, but I am really enjoying being here in Plymouth. Everyone from the coaching staff, to the guys, to my billets has been nothing short of amazing."

On the ice, where the Whalers open their home season tonight against the Erie Otters, Bathgate knows his responsibilities being one of the older players on the team.

"Obviously, being an OA in the league, there are things that you are expected to do," explained Bathgate. "Aside from scoring points, I'm looking to be a leader on a very talented team and contribute any way I can.

"If we have a good year this year team-wise, I'm pretty sure my goals as an individual will be much more easily accomplished."

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