Patient Pulock gets his shot

Ex-Wheatie paid his dues on way to NHL

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It happens almost every week in the NHL. Somebody, somewhere steps on the ice for their first-ever game in the show.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/03/2016 (2354 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It happens almost every week in the NHL. Somebody, somewhere steps on the ice for their first-ever game in the show.

The moments are always special because, as the hockey cliché goes, you only make your debut once. It’s about family and the people that helped get you there. And it’s about hard work and the fulfillment of a dream.

Ryan Pulock, the pride of Grandview, experienced all that on Feb. 28 in Edmonton. But his story includes so much more of a compelling story because Pulock has already through more than many his age.

It was six years ago this month that Pulock’s younger brother Brock, then 13, was killed in a car accident while Ryan, his mother and grandmother were driving to see the Pulock’s oldest brother, Derrick, play.

And so, yeah, playing his first game in Manitoba Thursday night — and third in the NHL — might have been even more meaningful than the first. Pulock, FYI, has a Maple Leaf tattoo on his chest — Toronto was his younger brother’s favourite team.

“It’s exciting,” said Pulock after the Islanders game-day skate Thursday. “It’s nice to have a few games under my belt (in the NHL) but to play here is pretty special. I’m going to have a lot of family, a lot of friends coming to watch.

“I’ve been waiting for my opportunity and I’ve been working hard down in the (American Hockey League) to get to this point. To be given an opportunity here is exciting and I look forward to taking advantage of it down the stretch.”

AMBER BRACKEN / THE CANADIAN PRESS
New York Islanders’ goalie Jaroslav Halak (41) lets in a goal from Edmonton Oilers’ Anton Lander (51), not pictured, as Ryan Pulock (6) and Matt Hendricks (23) look on during third period NHL hockey action, in Edmonton, Alta., on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016. The Oilers won 3-1.

A first-round draft pick by the Islanders three years ago, Pulock has spent parts of the last three seasons honing his game with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He’s always had an offensive flair — he had 63 points in 66 games in his final year with the Brandon Wheat Kings — but has improved his defensive play in the minors.

Pulock expected there to be at least 20 friends and family in the building Thursday night, including his immediate family including his parents and brother and his girlfriend’s family.

His parents were able to get to Edmonton for his first game last week.

“It’s special for them to be able to watch me in more games,” he said. “They’ve watched me play a lot and are a huge part of why I’ve made it this far. Growing up driving me around, getting me to the rink every day… to have them there for that moment is really special.

“I looked at the schedule before the year and you see (this) game and I was hoping to get a chance to play here.

“It’s been a long haul, but the last year and a half I’ve become more focussed on my defensive game and it’s come a long way. The hard work you put in makes this opportunity here that much more special.”

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

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