For many young hockey players, making the NHL is the ultimate dream and Paris, Ont. native Zac Dalpe is doing just that. After dressing for the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes in October, Dalpe’s living big and taking it all in, one game at a time.
“It’s obviously different, and it’s been a culture shock a little bit and definitely something you want to get used to, that’s for sure. It’s everything and more than what I expected,” says Dalpe of his new NHL career.
Dalpe, who was in Paris for the holidays, was recalled by the Hurricanes on Saturday and the 21-year-old's return to the NHL was a memorable one.
After having spent most of the season with the American Hockey League's Charlotte Checkers, Dalpe was called up to play against the New Jersey Devils. The former Stratford Culliton scored his first career NHL goal, blasting a shot from the slot past goalie Martin Brodeur at 13:42 of the first period.
Carolina went on to win the game 6-3.
Dalpe describes his new hockey life playing for the AHL's Checkers as one similar to before, aside from playing against "superstars," the fans, and the southern lifestyle.
“You get there doing all the same things. I have my routine. All of us take naps and get one in before the game. At the rink, I do certain things, I’ll tape my stick a certain way, have a coffee at a certain time.”
Before a game, Dalpe says the team is provided a meal which usually includes pasta and chicken to keep them energized and well-nourished.
But playing with the big names Dalpe’s used to watching on TV hasn’t stopped surprising him.
“I’m just amazed that I’m even here. Obviously Sidney Crosby is one of them; he’s out of this world. There’s a bunch of guys I like to watch, even people who aren’t household names, I still appreciate. I had to work hard to get here, just like they did.”
Starting out as one of the youngest on the team at 21, Dalpe’s fortunate to be a part of the Hurricanes family and appreciates any and all help he can get from the veteran players.
“Guys like Eric Staal or goalie Cam Ward are older guys that I was sitting beside in the room and they gave me little tips here and there and it’s super helpful.”
Dalpe’s not the only rookie starting out this past year. Jeff Skinner, 18, roomed with Dalpe and shared his first experiences of living away from home.
“Stuff like cooking and cleaning was pretty comical to watch. He’s another guy who’s such a great hockey player at a young age. I don’t even want to know what he’s going to be like in a couple years.”
Dalpe’s happy to be a part of the team’s transition from older team members to younger ones and is hopeful and anxious to “provide a lot of offensive ability and maybe some leadership down the road.”
“It’s kind of cliché, but I did dream about this when I was younger and now that I’m here, it really opens up your eyes a bit. It’s great.”