“Dupes. Hope all is well. The NYR scout has been trying to get a hold of you. Says he has left you a couple messages.”
This exact message popped up in my Twitter inbox of all places from a friend of mine and old goalie coach, Dave Rook. Rooker only spent one year in Sarnia and I was fortunate I got to experience it, he was able to continuously improve my game daily and was no doubt a big reason as to why I got that message that day. There was one problem though, I was sitting at a swim up bar in Cancun, Mexico, shades on, getting some sun and ordering anything that was wet and had some alcohol in it. After a couple messages back and forth, I was told that the New York Rangers found someone else because I had no service to take any kind of phone call. Talk about an emotional rollercoaster, even now I can’t recall everything that went through my head. Why were they calling a guy who was one week away from beginning university and CIS Hockey? Do they not have prospects? Basically that half hour was summed up by.. “What the f**k just happened!? ” and then quickly shutdown before I could even understand what the hell was going on.
Fast forward a week later, couple sunburns later and at least 10 pounds later after a week of nonstop eating and drinking, I sat in the brand new Ryerson Student Learning Centre, basically a huge eight floor library to begin athletic orientation with hundreds of other student-athletes. People in suits were giving speeches, welcoming us to the school, this and that and I’m sitting there literally trying to keep my eyes open when my pocket vibrates. I do what anyone would’ve done and take out my phone and see a number I have never seen before. Ignoring the speech being given, I look up where this area code is from that is calling me and sure as shit, from where else but New York. I don’t think I ever jumped out of a chair quicker than that day. I call back and chat with someone from front office and they go on to explain that there’s been an injury and ask if I’m in shape because they would like to invite me to Traverse City for the NHL’s rookie tournament. I kinda chuckle when he asks if I’m in shape because all I could think about was Mojitos and the sunny beaches of Mexico.
All joking aside, I felt like I was in good enough shape and even if I wasn’t, I don’t think anyone would be able to refuse. Because it was such short notice, the next day and a half was swapping paper work, e-mails and plane tickets and only two days after the phone call, I’m in a cab heading to the airport to take on the Big Apple. Fortunately for me a couple Sarnia Sting boys (Hayden Hodgson and Brandon Lindberg) were invited by the Rangers as well so it was nice to have a couple familiar faces to enjoy the experience with.
The first of many flights was from Toronto to New York City. After landing and getting a hold of our luggage and equipment, one of the guys sees a guy holding a sign up, you know like in the movies, saying “New York Rangers”. This is awesome and little did I know what was in store for the next week. First thing on the agenda was the NYR Practice facility which was about an hour drive from the airport where we went to drop off our equipment, meet some of the staff, get some fresh gitch before heading to the hotel for the night. You couldn’t help but be in awe when going through a facility like this.
I quickly found out that the New York Knicks as well as the WNBA’s New York Liberty shared the same facility which entitled them all to their own kitchen with personal chefs and the whole bit. This was nothing short as advertised, in fact probably 100 times more than advertised! This place was something else. After a day of practice we had the night to ourselves because the next morning was a travel day to fly to Traverse City, Michigan where the tournament was.
A night off in the Big Apple eh? We did what anyone else would do with a night off in NYC, Times Square. Those that have been, you know that if you want to see everything, you better spend at least a week there and for those that haven’t been do yourselves a favour and go, this place is absolutely incredible. Grand Central Station, the lights, street performers, the six story stores, it’s a lot to take in and that’s all I was trying to do, take it all in.
So here we are, about to take off in a chartered jet from New York City to Traverse City and I’ve already experienced more than I thought I’d get the chance to in my life, turns out we were just getting started. It wasn’t long after take off that the flight attendants handed out dinner menus and taking orders. Not even thinking twice, I’m expecting the usual plane food, pretzels with some water and maybe a small TV dinner… wrong. We had the choice between smoked salmon and quinoa, chicken and veggies, different kinds of salads, you ate like a king (no Lundqvist pun intended). Couple hours later and we’re set up in our hotel rooms without worrying about our equipment or basically anything for that matter, were given an itinerary and just had to follow along.
Now, I don’t care who you are but if you were to tell me the first time you showed up to a rink filled with NHL teams/jerseys and you realize you’re about to see your name on one of them and you didn’t have butterflies, I’d be the first one to call you a liar. You know, maybe this was all so surreal to me compared to the first/second/third round draft picks from the last couple years that have already done this stuff but if there is one moment that sticks out more than any other was seeing my name on the back of a New York Rangers jersey with #98 on it. One of the team rules was no cell phones in the dressing room or at the rink but you’d be stupid to think I’m not going to get a picture of that.
The rest of the week went as planned, playing the tournament, meeting new people, getting some advice from players, coaches, trainers, you name it. The only goal I had given myself going into the whole thing was to soak everything in, take lots of pictures and live in the moment because a week before that, I was sitting in a library getting ready to begin university, real life, and have hockey as a second priority for the first time in a long time. When a crazy opportunity like that comes up, it really makes you think and appreciate all the people that were a part of it along the way and helped you get there. I didn’t want to live this experience for myself but for everyone that helped me in any way, shape or form. To some, you might think that it was only a rookie tournament, that it was nowhere close to the real deal but to me it was more than enough, and a dream come true.
Happy Holidays / Merry Christmas!
Taylor Dupuis #29
Look for new “Between The Pipes” segments throughout the season. You can follow Taylor on Twitter here.