Name: Jeff Serowik
Hometown: Manchester, New Hampshire
Professional experience: 9 years between the NHL, AHL, IHL. Founder/President of Pro Ambitions Hockey, Inc.
My first NHL game was one for the ages:
I finally got the call to make my National Hockey League debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs. I joined the team for a road trip north of the U.S. border, to play the Calgary Flames. However, things certainly didn’t go as I visualized when I was an ambitious young kid. Below is a list of the crazy events that developed in those three or four hours… the time that I had looked forward to my entire life.
I walked off the bus into the locker room filled with anxious energy. I was officially living my dream. Excited and nervous, I walked up to my stall to see the beautiful Maple Leaf across the chest of the jersey I was to wear that night. I picked it up and turned it with eagerness to see my name on the back. “Serowick”. They spelled my name wrong.
After warm ups, I took my jersey off and hung it in my stall. I made a short bathroom run, but when I returned I saw that my jersey had apparently fallen off the hook onto the floor. Taking care of your jersey is an unwritten rule in the game, and I had already misplaced it. The coach saw what had happened and absolutely lost it. “You just disrespected the jersey… and the maple leaf!” he yelled.
I was one of the starters for the game that night. I lined up on the blue line for the American and Canadian national anthems, but I was so nervous, so rattled from what had transpired in the locker room, that I forgot to take off my helmet to pay respect. Our team captain nudged me, “Hey Rook, take your bucket off.” It was easy to forget simple, routine things like that when 22,000 fans are staring at you.
During the game, I recall a particular rush where Calgary entered the zone on me 2v1. Somehow, the ref tripped me by mistake. I fell down and Calgary nearly scored. You can imagine the expletives I unleashed on him, chasing the play back up the ice. During the following TV timeout, the ref skated alongside our bench and said, “Rookie, if you ever talk to me like that again, I will take you outside after the game and kick your ass!”
Al McGinnis, who at the time had one of the hardest shots in the league, wound up for a bomb in our defensive zone. I had been turned around and sure enough, I took it right in the back of the pants. I felt like my ass was on fire. It was black and blue for a month.
We lost the game 3-2, and aside from these other small events, I did okay! We packed up our bus and on the way out of the game, there was a fight happening in the parking lot. Just two guys, but one of them was absolutely destroying the other. Our General Manager stopped the bus after seeing this and said, “Kordic and Curran. Go help the guy.” Our two enforcers ran off the bus to the aid of the man. The first guy, who was winning the fight, took one look at Kordic and sucker punched him. Even though Kordic has an iron jaw, he got knocked down. Curran quickly handled the guy and knocked him out. The worst part was the moment when our GM saw Kordic get taken down. He ran off the bus to help him, resulting in him tripping on the ice and cracking the back of his head. So we had Kordic, the GM, and the two guys fighting, on the ground.
To top it all off, I got sent down to the minors the next day.
Other than that, it was an uneventful first NHL game. Almost not believable.
When my playing days were over, I decided to start Pro Ambitions Hockey. Through our camp, I have been able to work with kids across the world to help grow and develop their skills in hopes of eventually allowing them to tell their first NHL game story. I tell my campers this story all the time. It’s pretty funny now, but at the time I thought I was in a Slapshot sequel!
Founder/President of Pro Ambitions Hockey, Inc.
Social Media: @proambitions