Jared Spurgeon grew up in the city and watched as his brother tried to earn a spot on the Edmonton Oilers roster.
Now he’s the one looking to carve out an NHL career, currently making an impression on the Minnesota Wild’s blue line.
And on Tuesday, Spurgeon got an opportunity to play in his hometown arena as the Oilers hosted the Wild.
“This is a dream come true, my grandpa had season tickets, so I went to a fair share of games here,” Spurgeon said. “It’s going to be a big moment. It’s just cool to be here to be in front of family and friends.”
Spurgeon had a laundry list of admirers attend the game making his first appearance in Edmonton, having grown up on the west end.
His older brother Tyler was an Oilers prospect, now playing in Austria.
A former Memorial Cup winner with the Spokane Chiefs, Spurgeon, 21, was taken by the New York Islanders in the sixth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
Unable to come to terms with the Islanders, the five-foot-eight and a half, 170-pound defenceman singed as a free agent with the Wild.
“The Islanders had a lot of defensive prospects there and they offered me an AHL contract, but I figured I could go elsewhere and try to earn an NHL contract,” Spurgeon said. “My agent talked to a couple of teams, but the Wild showed the most interest in me. That’s obviously where you want to go, where the teams want you.”
Spurgeon has played 17 games for the Wild this season heading into the contest against the Oilers. He has yet to register a point, but has impressed the coaching staff with his hockey sense and his ability to protect the puck despite his small stature.
On Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks, the rookie defenceman took the brunt of a Ryan Kesler hit in the corner and was still able to come away with the puck.
“It was a great play,” said Wild head coach Todd Richards. “As soon as it happened out on the ice, I though that he was a smart player, just the way he positioned his body, took the hit and kept the puck in his feet.
“One thing you learn as a defenceman, is that if you position yourself up on the boards right away and the guy hits you, he’s the one the usually bounces off you and you kind of stay there. The play surprised me, but then again it didn’t, because I’m sensing that he’s a smart player.”
Spurgeon spent the first part of the year with the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Houston where he scored a pair of goals and added seven assists in 23 games.
He was called up in late November and played his first NHL game in Calgary against the Flames. He dressed in 12 consecutive games before being pulled out of the lineup and sent back to the minors briefly.
He was recalled and sent back to Houston briefly again before coming back to dress in the Wild’s last two games.
“I just went into training camp to try and show them what I had and get an opportunity to earn a contract,” said Spurgeon. “That’s sort of what happened. They’ve showed trust in me so far and I’m just trying to make the most of the opportunity.”
Spurgeon went into camp as an unknown with little chance of making the roster.
“He wasn’t even on our radar, but I did notice him, because he made some pretty good plays,” Richards said. “He was getting noticed. We didn’t expect a lot, but all he’s done is open up our eyes every time he’s gone out on the ice.”