"On the Fly" is a new regular feature on DallasStars.com. Senior digital correspondent Scott Burnside sits down with a member of the Stars for a few random, off-the-cuff questions to gain insight into their lives, thoughts and careers on and off the ice.
Today's edition features Minnesota native and forward Tyler Pitlick, who broke into the NHL with the Oilers after being drafted 31st overall in 2010 and was one of the most underscored offseason moves by the Stars.
Previous installments: Jason Spezza | Jamie Benn | Stephen Johns | Kari Lehtonen
Scott Burnside: What was the best hockey gift you ever received?
Tyler Pitlick: Probably the first one was Christmas, my uncle, Lance -- he was playing in the NHL at the time -- he brought me home a one-piece Easton Synergy (stick) of some kind. I remember being pretty pumped up about that. I was probably pee-wee maybe, so it was like they were first starting to really be big, so it was pretty cool. I used it. I think it was one of the guys' sticks, so it was probably a little too stiff for me. But I used it anyways and I thought it was pretty awesome.
Video: DAL@CHI: Pitlick fires home strong slap shot
SB: Do you remember the first time you were asked for an autograph or interview request and how that made you feel?
TP: It was probably when I was in high school for sure for interviewing. I'm sure there were young kids that asked for autographs. That was pretty cool. Hockey's pretty big in Minnesota for the high school games. You get all the people from high school coming to watch and also all of the younger kids playing in bantams, pee-wees, squirts (and) mites coming to watch the big guys play at the time, and so, that was always fun. That was pretty cool. We were fortunate enough to have some games on TV, too, where you got to have some interviews and all that, so that was pretty cool. We were always really good. We won state as bantams and we had pretty much the same group in high school. But we made it to the section finals to go to the state tournament and lost all three years, so we never got to the big dance. But playing with all my buddies growing up back home and in high school, those were some of the funnest times playing hockey for sure. I had eight of them in my wedding this summer and had the bachelor party, and every summer, we get together for sure at least a few times to have some fun and reminisce the old times. We still keep in touch and have group chats that we talk. Every once in a while, my phone will just go buzz, buzz, buzz and they'll be chatting away even when I'm trying to nap or something. So we definitely try and keep in touch as much as possible. Just the other night in Chicago, after the game, I had 15 text messages in our group chat saying, 'What a snipe,' (and) whatever. And then against Pittsburgh, about the hit on Malkin, they were all excited about that, too. They're always watching and that's also pretty good feeling to know they're still keeping tabs on me.
SB: If you could go back to 18-year-old Tyler Pitlick and give him some advice, what would it be?
TP: Well, I mean, there's going to be ups and downs. It's not going to go as smoothly hockey-wise as it did throughout high school and stuff goes on, it gets harder and harder. I was pretty fortunate early on with my health, but then had a lot of injuries, so I'd say stick with it. It's not going to be easy, but if you keep grinding and keep working, it'll be worth it. I think it's just in my nature, I guess, to just keep going and I just -- I've wanted this dream so bad for so long, it never really occurred to me to give up, I guess. I mean, I left school. I don't have a whole lot to fall back on other than hockey and I can't picture myself doing anything other than playing hockey. So it never really occurred to me to give up. I think through everything I've been through, it would have been easy -- could have been easy -- to just say, 'Enough's enough. I'm not cut out for it apparently.' But just never really occurred to me. I needed to keep playing and I'm glad I did because it's starting to work out now.
SB: When you signed your first NHL contract how did you celebrate, did you make a special purchase?
TP: I bought a car. I was driving old cars that weren't that great. So, I bought a Chevy Avalanche with 24-inch rims on it that I thought was pretty cool and probably had too many miles on it that I probably wish I would have had someone tell me to buy a more practical car at the time. But I liked it -- had some good times driving it and all my buddies back home liked it, so that was cool at the time. In Minnesota, I went to the lot just planning on buying a pick-up truck or something, and then, I saw that and I was like, 'That's cool. I want to have that.' It was charcoal gray with black rims (and) black Chevy symbols. Good-looking truck.
Video: CAR@DAL: Pitlick capitalizes on second chance
SB: What was the worst hockey injury you've ever seen or has happened to you?
TP: The scariest one that's happened was my spleen. Ruptured my spleen three years ago in Calgary right after Christmas on New Year's Eve. I turned the puck up and Lance Bouma was coming full speed at me. He hit me and I actually hit him. I mean, he's a big boy. We were both going fast. I don't know if it was the way my glove was positioned or something when I hit him, and something wasn't right. I felt like I just got the wind knocked out of me. I finished the game. I think it was in the third period. Had a few more shifts, and then, I went in the dressing room to get ice for my shoulder from the hit and said, 'By the way, my stomach doesn't really feel great.' And the doctors pushed on it and they're like, 'You need to get to a hospital.' I was like, 'What do you mean I've got to go to the hospital?' Because I still felt okay. I felt like I had knots in my stomach. But me and the assistant trainer, we got in a cab to go to a hospital and a few minutes down the road, I started like getting in such pain and it was like I thought I was going to puke -- like pass out. And sure enough, we get to the hospital and my spleen ruptured, and I had to spend three or four days there and had surgery. Wife drove from Edmonton to Calgary and stayed with me. That sucked. I was out the rest of the year. Right before Christmas, they told me to get a place, (and) said, 'You're staying. You're playing good, you're staying.' Then right after Christmas, New Year's Eve, I guess it wasn't ruptured, it was lacerated. So they were able to cauterize it and save it, so I was lucky. But that was the most painful for sure. I mean, you're bleeding internally -- stuff floating around inside you. The scariest part is, if I didn't say anything and got on that flight -- because I don't think we were going back to Edmonton, I think we were going to Colorado, and if I would have got on that plane, I would have probably died.
This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Scott Burnside is a senior digital correspondent for DallasStars.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @OvertimeScottB, and listen to his podcast.
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