Friday, July 11, 2014

Hockey firsts: Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers

January 06. 2014 7:59PM

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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: Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers

Age: 29

Position: Goaltender

Birthplace: St. Jean Richelieu, Quebec

Years pro: 10

First time on skates: “I don’t remember how old I was. I’ll go with 5 years old. I started to do figure skating to learn how to skate. You learn to skate with a chair and I was falling a lot. That’s part of it — falling a lot and getting back up. Figure skating helped me to learn how to skate, and then I switched to hockey a year after.”

First team: “The first one I remember was a team at the rink in my hometown. Waking up very early, practicing before the sun came out. A cold rink. That’s what you do when you’re a kid.”

First coach that influenced you: “I’m here because I learned from so many people. I had great coaches throughout the minor hockey in my hometown. I had a great goalie coach in junior, Daniel Blouin. In Edmonton, I had Pete Peeters. Every summer I go back to Calgary and work with David Marcoux. He was the goalie coach for Calgary when they went to the Cup (final in 2004). He worked a lot with (Mikka) Kiprusoff and he’s very good. I came here prepared because of working with him in the summer. He was very good to me.”

First save that you remember: “It’s been so long, I don’t remember. Since I’ve been playing goalie, I remember the tournaments and the travel. My first NHL win was something very special to me.”

First time you won anything in hockey: “I was pretty young and we won a little trophy from a tournament. You always remember that feeling and that’s what drives you year after year. You taste it once and you always want to win.”

First time hockey took you away from home: “I was 15. I made a team in my hometown, but got cut the day before the season. I was picked up on waivers by another team in Gatineau — three hours away from my hometown. I lived with a billet family and we still keep in touch. I had to make myself a new life. It was a big adjustment for me and I did it at a young age. It helped me for years after. The next year, I was five hours from home and I was already adjusted to it. When I started in Edmonton, I was 20 playing in Alberta for the first time. You had to do everything — find your apartment, pay your bills, cook your food, do your laundry. Leaving the house at 15, I was used to being without my family. I was grateful to do that at a young age.”

First pro contract: “We had a big dinner and a good bottle of wine with my family to celebrate that. It was a good moment for me. When I got drafted, too, my family came to Toronto. It was a fun time. You get closer to the goal, which is playing in the NHL. Then the first pro contract makes it more official. It’s hard to pinpoint the emotion, but it was a great feeling and another step toward my dream.”

First time you faced adversity in your hockey career: “Minor hockey was the first time I faced adversity. Everybody has their own way to make it. Maybe my way wasn’t the easiest, although some people had it harder. I always had a dream to play in the NHL. You get down and you have to come back stronger. It stinks to get a situation you’re not happy with, but you learn to get back up and work harder. When things turn around, you appreciate it more. I never felt entitled to anything and always worked for what I have. This year, in the summer was difficult, then I got invited to training camp here, signed a PTO, worked through it and signed an AHL contract with a great team.”

— Tom Venesky

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