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Stanley Cup Final

Dillon: 'Surreal' to be playing in Stanley Cup Final

Sharks defenseman, who went undrafted, recalls long journey to NHL

by Brenden Dillon / Special to NHL.com

San Jose defenseman Brenden Dillon will be keeping his own blog throughout the course of the Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Dillon will check in after games and on some of the off days in between games.

Here is Dillon's blog from Tuesday, an off day between Game 1 and Game 2:

It's been a long road to this point of the Stanley Cup Final. It wasn't always an easy one or one that was mapped out exactly according to plan.

When I was younger, I was one of the smaller guys on my hockey team. My 16-year-old year, I was 5-foot-3 and I think that was probably the reason why I wasn't given that much of a look back then by Western Hockey League teams. It forced me to work on other parts of my game, skating, puck movement; little things that are staples in the game today. It's pretty surreal to now be playing in the Stanley Cup Final; to just be in the lineup, let alone be someone who is contributing and trying to make the team better.

It's kind of tough to not get caught up in the moment at night, when you are lying in bed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania getting ready for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

This is something that as a kid you dream about. It is why you go to the 6 a.m. practices and why you are playing street hockey with your buddies in front of the house all the time. At the end of the day, this is where every guy wants to be.

It's amazing to me to see how much work goes into getting to this point. Every guy in the NHL can say they have worked hard; I think every NHL guy can say they have had to make sacrifices along the way. I think sometimes you think how did I get here? How did all those teams I played for in the past help me to get here? Like I said, it is a long road.

I grew up outside Vancouver in Surrey, British Columbia. I played minor hockey there my whole life until I was 15 or 16. My dad, Ed, coached me the majority of years I played hockey there. I wasn't drafted into the Western Hockey League, which is a big thing in Western Canada. At age 16, I made the Hope Icebreakers, a Junior B team that was 90 minutes or so from my house. I played the full season there, but about halfway through I was able to sign a contract with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL.

I was able to make the Thunderbirds team out of camp and we had a lot of high-end players at that time. We had Thomas Hickey, who was selected No. 4 in the 2007 NHL Draft [by the New York Islanders], we had a goaltender who was drafted in the 2006 first round by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Riku Helenius. Scott Jackson, a defenseman who was drafted in the second round of the 2005 draft [by the St. Louis Blues], and Jim O'Brien, a first-round pick with Ottawa in 2005. For myself, it was just living a dream to make it to the Western League and then to be skating with all these highly drafted guys.

It was there that I got into that every day-going-to-the-rink routine. Hockey was a job. You went to school during the day and the rest of the time was dedicated to practice and working out. I have loved that lifestyle ever since and fortunately I was able to play pro.

I wasn't drafted in the NHL, but I was able to sign a deal with the Dallas Stars. I talked to a couple of NHL teams that last year and ended up signing with Dallas. I played a year-and-a-half with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League and then made my NHL debut during my first year pro at the end of the year against St. Louis. I can't really even express how exciting that was, I had my mom and dad come down to St. Louis for the game.

We had Sheldon Souray, Trevor Daley, Jamie Benn, Alex Goligoski on that team. It was pretty surreal to be skating with those guys. Two years later, life changed. I was traded; pack your bags, you're on a plane out west to play for the Sharks. It was out of the blue, but after going out there and meeting the guys and seeing the area and I was beyond excited.

My family wasn't able to come for these games in Pittsburgh, but they will be in San Jose this weekend for Games 3 and 4. My dad, my mom, Debbie, and my sister, Kirsten, are all coming in for the games. It should be great.

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