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: Harrison Ruopp
Birthplace: Zehner, Sask.
Years pro: 1
First time on skates: “I remember the first time I wanted to play hockey. My older brother and I were outside and we had some ice alongside our driveway. We were playing around with sticks and my brother said he wanted to play, so I followed suit. We asked our parents. I was five.”
First team: “Pilot Butte Broncos — the closet town to where I lived.”
First coach that influenced you: “Through my minor hockey years my biggest influence was coach Barry Nychuk. He had a son Justin and he coached me and my friends. He was a huge influence on me. He made it fun and taught us the game well.”
First goal that you remember: “I was always a defenseman and I used to score a little bit when I was younger. I definitely scored a bit more when I was younger than I do now.”
First time you won anything in hockey: “Growing up when I moved up from the Broncos to the Prairie Storm. We won a couple league championships. My first year in bantam, we won the provincials and went to the Western Canadian Bantam Championships. That was definitely exciting.”
First time hockey took you away from home: “I was 16. My first year in WHL. It was definitely an adjustment. I went there not knowing if I’d make the team. I stayed longer and longer, and eventually stayed the whole year. I was about four hours from home, so I was close enough I could see my family. It was an easy adjustment in that regard.”
First pro contract: “It was unbelievable. A dream come true. That was my goal and to achieve it was amazing. Kind of hard to describe, but my biggest personal milestone.”
First time you faced adversity in your hockey career: “That first year in the WHL. I was young and still had some growing to do. I struggled a bit with being in and out of the lineup. To make it through that year was huge for me. Then to come back next year and stay in the lineup all the time and work for it was a good experience.”
— Tom Venesky