BC boy Street set to make his NHL debut in front of family and friends
VANCOUVER, BC -- Things couldn't have lined up any more perfectly for Ben Street.
The Coquitlam, BC native, who was recalled by the Flames today after Mikael Backlund (lower body) was retroactively placed on the injured reserve, will suit up for his first NHL game on Saturday night in Vancouver in front of numerous friends and family members.
"I'm pretty excited. It's Hockey Night In Canada and it's Vancouver, where I'm from, so it's just about as cool as it could
possibly be. It's been a bit of a whirlwind and I'm really excited to get going."
Street had an inkling a call from the Flames brass was coming when he saw Backlund leave the game in Columbus on Thursday night. He felt a few butterflies but pushed them aside, not wanting to get his hopes up too much, and sat down to eat dinner with his fiance.
Then the phone rang. John Weisbrod was on the other end, telling him he would be joining the team.
"I was going to ignore it and then I thought I better check who that is. It was just us two kind of looking at each other going, 'Holy cow.'"
After getting over the initial shock, Street started to throw things into a suitcase as he prepared for his first foray into the NHL. This morning, he made the hour-long drive from Abbotsford to Vancouver to meet up with the Flames at Rogers Arena for their afternoon skate.
"I'm happy that I got today to have a practice," he admitted. "Kind of get into the groove of things a little bit. I guess you kind of imagine it to be a bit Hollywood and it's just a phone call. It's still extremely exciting.
"You sort of think that there will all these people around to celebrate with and it's just a couple of people. It's not all that glorious but inside, it's such an incredible feeling."
Street signed a two-year, two-way way deal with the organization on July 2, 2012. He had spent the previous two seasons with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL) where he amassed 39 goals and 80 points through 107 games.
"It was a dream come true to start with," he grinned, referring to signing his first two-way deal with an NHL team. "It was one domino and hopefully we'll topple another one. It's real exciting. It's really cool. It's just awesome."
The forward has established himself as a top-line player in Abbotsford this season and is the team's leading scorer. In 44 games, Street has racked up 12 goals and 31 points. He also leads the Heat in shots on net with 168. The next closest skater? Krys Kolanos with 106.
"Pretty gifted offensively," Flames head coach Bob Hartley said. "That's the reason why he's one of the top scorers in Abby. He's been a force since Day 1.
"Injuries open the doors to young players like Ben Street to come in and show us what he can do."
Today, the coaching staff had Street skate with Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka - the line Backlund was centering until he was felled by injury - but Hartley cautioned not to read too much into practice lines.
"It was just to get a feel," the bench boss said of his combinations today. "It was not a very long practice and it was just to see what he can do."
Trying to tamp down the excitement of playing his first NHL game in his backyard and focus on the task at hand will be a challenge but Hartley isn't worried about Street becoming overwhelmed.
"It's a boyhood dream. Just take advantage of the moment, enjoy the moment. That's what we told Leland Irving in Detroit and that's what we told him last night. It's all about living the dream. This is a good opportunity for Ben."