By the time a player reaches the AHL or NHL, they have already achieved a lot in their careers and made plenty of memories along the way. Each week, we’ll sit down with one of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and talk about some of the memorable “firsts” they’ve had during their careers, ranging from their first time on skates to their first goal as a pro.
Player: Nick Drazenovic
Birthplace: Prince George, B.C.
Years pro: 7
First time on skates: “I was 6. It was a borrowed pair of skates. Just trying it out on an outdoor rink at my elementary school. I had roller blades prior, so I tried skating and was just able to do it.”
First team: “It was sponsored by a home furniture store. Our colors were blue with gold stripes.”
First coach that influenced you: “Obviously my parents, but on that home furniture team I had a really good coach. He gave me ice time and was a really good person. When I was 8 or 9, a guy named Jim Voytechek brought me into a summer hockey program. I got ahead of the ball and really developed because of that.”
First goal that you remember: “I remember one just because it was on home footage. I kicked the puck up to my skate and went on a breakaway. If you got it on net you would score because there wasn’t a goalie in pads, it was just some players standing there. It was a good one actually.”
First time you won anything in hockey: “We were back-to-back champions in a big tournament we had as 10-year-olds, an Atoms tournament. I scored in the shootout in that tournament. This was a Burger King team. I also played for a team sponsored by a logging company for two years, so I went furniture, burgers, logging.”
First time hockey took you away from home: “Jim Voytechek had moved nine hours away and started another summer hockey program in Edmonton. I was 10 and played with (Brendan) Mikkelson. I used to have to go on the bus every Friday — half school day and be on the bus for 10 hours. Spend the weekend with Jim and then bus all night Sunday night and go to school Monday morning. I did it for three months for two years. Being so young and on the bus alone, looking back on it it was a huge part of my development but I can’t believe I did it at that age. I used to sit at the front of the bus by the driver — my parents would reserve that seat.”
First pro contract: “I was drafted by St. Louis and had a good playoff run as a 19-year-old in juniors, went to the conference final and played really well. St. Louis signed me shortly after.”
First time you faced adversity in your hockey career: “I love the sport and I love playing. The adversity is the things you give up. The biggest one is missing every weekend during the school. I had to give up my weekends with friends in my grade 7 and grade 8 years. I gave up a lot. I remember missing my year-end grade 7 party before we went to the high school for grade 8. We had the gym for the night. Just giving up a normal life to chase the dream.”
— Tom Venesky