Posts Tagged ‘Oshawa Generals’

2018Feb 6

Stay The Course

Ever since I can remember, hockey has been in my life, whether that be playing competitively through minor hockey, on TV on Saturday nights watching DScreen Shot 2018-02-06 at 6.04.24 PMon Cherry, or the cold nights playing shinny on the outdoor rink with friends back in my hometown, North Bay, Ontario. I first laced up when I was three years old, as a forward that is and played that role up until I was eleven. I did not have very much confidence in my goalies so I ended up rushing back and standing in front of the net blocking any shot that came at us. It was at that time my dad recommended I might as well put on the pads and I haven’t looked back since. From then on I was between the posts but since I found my role eight years into my career, I had some catching up to do. I had never worked with a goalie coach or went to a goalie school until I was fifteen. When I had the opportunity to go to goalie school, I quickly realized my style had not been taken on by many. My goalie coach recognized this and completely changed my style making many adjustments, which took me a year or two to get completely comfortable with. Since being such a late bloomer I was inexperienced and ended up having to go through many heartbreaks, getting cut from AAA teams up until Midget. Some may think of Appleby (right) at local rink for free skate with childhood friendit as a loss, even myself at that time, but when I look back on it now I think of waking up at 6 a.m. for practice, enduring a forty-minute drive to a small town which is home to the coldest arena I have ever played on to this day, Trout Creek, Ontario. I also think of playing on my high school hockey team, Chippewa Raiders’ first year back into the local high school league, winning only three games throughout the entire season but creating some great memories throughout all the losses. Some people might have described those as setbacks, but those setbacks played a big role in developing me into the goalie and person I am today.

 

 

 

North Bay Trappers Midget AAA take on the elements for a fun practice on an outdoor rink Appleby (second from the right) tries to bring out his skills as a player

North Bay Trappers Midget AAA take on the elements for a fun practice on an outdoor rink. Appleby (second from the right) tries to    bring out his skills as a player

After a hard work of summer camp and tryouts, I made my first AAA team in Major Midget AAA for the North Bay Trappers. From there I was able to work my way through the year, and the hard work paid off as I ended up getting drafted to the Oshawa Generals, in the Ontario Hockey League, in the second round, thirty-fifth overall. Following my draft year, I played a year in Kirkland Lake with the Kirkland Lake Blue Devils. I played that year with the Blue Devils and ended up getting the call for the Generals the following year. I was leaving my family, friends, and my hometown, entering a whole new world I was unfamiliar with. Luckily I was not alone as I had my teammates and my billet family. They treated me as one of their own making me homemade meals and helping me get to the rink. I played there for two years and started to think about what will come after my years in the OHL. I was undrafted but still had one more year along with my overage year ahead of me; I decided then to start takingScreen Shot 2018-02-06 at 12.38.11 AM some courses at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. I was interested in business so decided to take their commerce program focusing in microeconomics and business math. While dealing with classes, we ended up having a very successful year on the ice. We made our way to the OHL Conference Finals where we met up with my hometown’s team, North Bay Battalion. After winning that series we began to prepare for the next challenge against Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters. We fought through another huge series winning ourselves the OHL Championship and were on our way to the Memorial Cup. After battling our way to victory winning 2-1 against the Kelowna Rockets, I held the Memorial Cup Trophy in my hands and couldn’t be happier to be in the position I was. After my performances from that season, some NHL clubs began contacting me sending invitations to camps. This was the first time I had ever seriously thought about being able to compete on the professional level. I went to a few different teams’ camps and ended up signing with the New Jersey Devils, playing with their affiliate team, the Binghamton Devils.

 

Now I was in a somewhat familiar position. Entering a new city, playing for a different team, in a stronger league. I was in my first stage of my professional career. Since I was in the pros now, I had to take all the lessons I’ve learned from my parents and billets and live on my own. This meant finding an apartment, roommates, and figuring out on how to cook for myself. It wasn’t too easy but I managed to figure it out, now living in an apartment in Binghamton with two teammates, we all pitch in together. Now my days typically start up at seven and get to the rink around eight. We stick to the plan for the day whether that is having team meetings or workouts, and then around ten we go for practice. After practice is done, a group of us get together and figure out where the post-practice meal will be. After lunch I head back home and do some meal prep, take a nap, or play some Xbox with my roommates. It’s not your typical job, so I tend to find myself searching for ways to keep busy quite often. In the off-season I surround myself at home with family and friends, I like to spend my summer days at the golf course or on the lake. Game days are fairly similar to regular praAppleby in first NHL appearance against the Colorado Avalanchectice days but just add in the game later that night. I played the majority of my first year of professional hockey with the Adirondack Thunder in the East Coast Hockey League, occasionally getting a chance to play with the AHL team, which was the Albany Devils at the time. The following year I had a larger role with Albany and ended up getting the chance to have my first NHL appearance with the New Jersey Devils playing against the Colorado Avalanche, backing up goaltender Cory Schneider. I couldn’t believe I was in the position I was, and the camera sure caught that. I was joking around with my trainer and the next thing I see is my face smiling ear to ear on the big screen. I’ve always learned to enjoy the ride and that was exactly what I was doing.

 

I am now entering my third year of professional hockey; I am sharing the starting role for the now Binghamton Devils and continue to work as hard as I can to better myself. My expectations for this season were that Binghamton was my home for the year. I was looking to play lots and focus on developing my game. I didn’t have too high of expectations, I just wanted to come in and have solid year. Halfway through this season I got my second call up to the top level. We were playing against theAppleby NHL Debut Philadelphia Flyers. Again I sat on the bench, ecstatic that I was where I was, and then halfway into the first period I saw Kinkaid go down. I could tell right away that it did not look good for fellow goaltender and that I would most likely be going in. As I looked down the bench I got the nod, my heart started racing as I started to get my mask and gloves together, I kept thinking to myself is this really happening? Before I knew it I had to react to Wayne Simmonds flying down the wing coming directly at me. We ended up losing the game 3-1 however I took it as a very positive experience and a day that I will never forget. A few days later I got told I was getting my first career start against Nashville Predators.

Appleby walking through the tunnel entering his first NHL start

Appleby walking through the tunnel entering his first NHL start

gifAgain, my mind was racing, I had to calm down and try and focus on what I had to do, which is have a good game. My mindset for the game was to focus on making the first save, and move onto the next, keeping my game simple and hopefully do enough to give the team a chance to win. Throughout my whole career I’ve learnt not to take anything for granted, whether that be getting called up, making a team, or being named a starter. I try to take full advantage of those opportunities because they don’t come around too often. It was all very nerve racking but I took advantage of the situation. Once the game got going and I made the first save, I realized it was just another hockey game and I am looking forward to the next.

 

Written By: Kyle Wilkinson

Contributor: Ken Appleby, New Jersey Devils/Binghamton Devils

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