Thomas Pock certainly made the most of his National Hockey League debut. Only three days after being eliminated in triple overtime by the University of Maine in the Hockey East championship, the University of Massachusetts standout received a call from agent Paul Theofanous with news of a professional contract agreement with the New York Rangers.
Then things got interesting from there.
"The he said, 'Pack your stuff and come on down (to New York),' " he recalled. "I didn't expect anything to happen so soon."
No, Pock (pronounced 'poke') wasn't coming down for a tour of Madison Square Garden or New York City for that matter. He was about to suit up in his first NHL game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
With Blueshirt defenseman Tom Poti sidelined with back spasms, the Rangers decided to throw Pock right into action. He immediately hopped in a car with his roommate and made the 3 1/2 hour drive from Amherst, Massachusetts to The Big Apple and arrived at The Garden around 4:30 PM with his equipment and stick in tow.
Pock, who was paired on the blueline with Dale Purinton, logged over 14 minutes of ice time vs. the Pens and recorded three shots on goal. But it was his third shot, a sharp wrister from the blueline, that mattered the most. The 6-1, 208-pounder ripped the shot past Pittsburgh goaltender J.S. Aubin at 13:23 of the third period for his first NHL goal, becoming the 18th Ranger since 1980 and the sixth NHLer this season to score in his professional debut (see list below).
"It's overwhelming,"said Pock after the game. "When I drove down with my roommate, I was just joking and I told him I was going to score today. He was just laughing at me and I was laughing at him, like, 'Yeah, right.' "
"I always thought I could (make the NHL), but I may have been the only one," he added. "I believe in myself, and so did my family and all the coaches at school. I just kept working to see what it brings, and I learned a lot over four years at UMass. I still have a lot of room to improve."
Rangers coach Tom Renney was certainly impressed with what he saw.
"It was a terrific shot," Renney said of the goal. "He's got good puck skills and I don't think I saw a guy skate faster on an icing all year long. He's enthusiastic and we believe, over time, we can develop him into a solid NHL defenseman. We were adamant that we should sign him and get him in here for a good look because based on what our people were saying, he was highly sought after. At the end of the day, what do we have to lose?"
Pock recently concluded a stellar season at Massachusetts, appearing in 37 matches, while leading the team in all offensive categories with 16 goals, 25 assists and 41 points. He was named a Hockey East First Team All-Star and is a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the nation's top collegiate player. Pock was also recently named to the Hockey East All-Tournanent Team and selected as the Hockey East's Defensive Player of the Week, while helping to lead the Minutemen to their first-ever tournament finals appearance.
"I was definitely a little nervous at the beginning," Pock noted of his first few NHL shifts. "I noticed the pace was way faster than what I was used to in college. Way more control, too. Nobody was just running around out there. It took a couple of shifts to get into it but all the guys on the team helped me out."
When his whirlwind day finally came to an end, it certainly proved to be one to remember for the undrafted native of Klagenfurt, Austria.
"It will probably take a little while to sink in, maybe a few days from now to know exactly what it meant, but it was nice," Pock said reflecting on his goal. "Obviously, when you're growing up you dream about going to the NHL and when you score your first goal so I'm happy, and on the same day I signed. So it's nice. I hope I will continue playing well."RANGERS TO SCORE A GOAL IN THEIR FIRST NHL GAME (since 1980-81):
03/23/2004 - NYR 2, PIT 5 - Pock, Thomas (1)
04/08/1996 - NYR 3, FLA 5 - Ferraro, Chris (1)
03/09/1996 - NYR 6, WSH 1 - Gernander, Ken (1)
02/18/1995 - NYR 2, MTL 5 - Langdon, Darren (1)
01/25/1995 - NYR 2, PIT 3 - Roy, Jean-Yves (1)
12/06/1992 - NYR 6, TOR 0 - King, Steven (1)
10/12/1992 - NYR 6, HFD 2 - Kovalev, Alexei (1)
10/03/1991 - NYR 3, BOS 5 - Amonte, Tony (1)
10/03/1991 - NYR 3, BOS 5 - Weight, Doug (1)
12/23/1988 - NYR 2, WSH 2 - Miller, Kevin (1)
04/04/1987 - NYR 3, HFD 5 - Walker, Gordon (1)
10/10/1985 - NYR 4, WSH 2 - Ridley, Mike (1)
10/11/1984 - NYR 4, HFD 4 - Sandstrom, Tomas (1)
01/18/1984 - NYR 6, STL 2 - Richmond, Steve (1)
10/05/1983 - NYR 6, NJ 2 - Sundstrom, Peter (1)
11/05/1980 - NYR 3, CHI 3 - Nethery, Lance (1)
11/01/1980 - NYR 4, MTL 7 - McCarthy, Dan (2)
10/09/1980 - NYR 2, BOS 7 - Allison, Mike (1)PLAYERS TO SCORE A GOAL IN THEIR FIRST NHL GAME (2003-04):
03/23/2004 - NYR 2, PIT 5 - Pock, Thomas (1)
03/16/2004 - PIT 4, WSH 1 - Hussey, Matt (1)
03/11/2004 - FLA 3, MTL 2 - Olson, Josh (1)
11/28/2003 - CHI 3, ANA 4 - Yakubov, Mikhail (1)
11/04/2003 - EDM 4, MTL 2 - Sarno, Peter (1)
10/09/2003 - SJ 2, EDM 5 - Michalek, Milan (1)RELATED LINKS
3/23/2004 - Pock Inks Professional Contract with Blueshirts >>
3/4/2004 - Pock's Stock Rising >>