CALGARY, AB -- Bill Arnold's NHL experience this season lasted a grand total of four days but those 96 hours will have a enormous impact on the young forward's future.
"It’s not easy and nothing is going to be given to us," was his response when asked what he had learned about the NHL game. "You’ve got to go back and work hard all summer. I know the things I need to work on. I’m excited and, I’ve said it before, I’m hungry to get back.
"I’m excited to come up and I’ve got to earn my spot on the team. That’s my goal for the summer."
The Needham, MA native's first foray into the world of professional hockey began on Apr. 11 when he and his fellow Boston College teammate Johnny Gaudreau inked entry-level contracts with the Flames, following the conclusion of their NCAA season at the Frozen Four.
The pair stayed in Philadelphia that day, waiting for the Hobey Baker Award ceremony on Friday evening. After Gaudreau nabbed the award, which goes to the best player in college hockey, they and their parents hoped on a plane and headed for Calgary.
They spent Saturday with the team in Vancouver, participating in their first NHL practice, and then made their NHL debut on Sunday.
"I went down to get a coffee before the bus there and I came up back to the room with Johnny. I was just like, ‘We’re here. We’re ready to go.’ There were some nerves and stuff but I’ll never forget [that] night. It was a privilege and honour to get to play. It’s a night I’ll never forget.”
Arnold ended up with 16 shifts, 13:35 of ice time, threw one hit, won 56 per cent of his nine draws, and had one golden scoring opportunity when he nearly he converted on a pass from Mark Giordano while in tight.
"You get a taste of it [that] night and you’re upset that the season is over," he said. "But it’s kind of surreal to get that experience [that] night. Definitely excited to work hard this summer and come back next fall and get it going here."
While he only has a small sample size to evaluate, that one game in the NHL opened his eyes to what he will face in the future. It's given him context for off-season training alterations and adjustments.
"It’s definitely easy to see the game is so much faster. The thing I really want to work on this summer is foot speed. Even that split second, you need to be ready and a split second faster for everything.
"The thing I was most surprised about was just how big everyone is. The Sedins, I didn’t know they were so big. You get out there and you see everyone … you’ve got to go back and get bigger and stronger and faster."
Look back on his experience and how the Flames run things, he believes he meshes well with the organization and it's culture.
"Coach says he likes his team to be the hardest working team in the league. That’s something I take pride in. I like to go out there and put it all on the line, every shift. So I think in that aspect, I fit pretty well.
"But I’m going to go back this summer and there’s some things I need to work on to come in ready for training camp."
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