January 4, 2017
By Dave Schwartz
Sometimes life simply isn’t fair. Other people get the breaks while you continue to work hard waiting for yours. For a lot of athletes, that break never comes.
Just ask Pat Cannone. But then again, maybe you shouldn’t.
“I’m just looking forward to the opportunity.” Cannone calmly said after his first practice in the NHL.
Cannone was called up last week by the Minnesota Wild for the first time in his professional career which has spanned six AHL seasons with three different teams. For years he’s seen his teammates and his opposition get “the call” up to the big leagues while he continued to work — waiting for this day to come.
“You know you hope so, you play for that, you work hard for that,” Cannone said. “It was a long time coming.”
Cannone earned the call up. He was the 2016 AHL all-star game MVP and after years of torching the Iowa Wild as a member of the Chicago Wolves, he joined the franchise as a free agent this offseason. In 29 games he’s tallied 16 points. He calls himself a two-way player and says his main goal is just to help the team win. It was that full body of work that got Bruce Boudreau’s attention.
“It’s a great thing for guys to get their first game up,” Boudreau told Wild TV after practice. “Especially when they have played a few years in the minors. He’s earned it. He’s played very well down in Iowa. So here is his chance.”
That chance makes him a rookie —and an old one at that. At 30 he’s older than three-quarters of the Wild roster. Most NHL rookies are in their early 20’s when they get their first call up to the big leagues. And while Cannone was nervous the first time he put on that NHL sweater, he believes it’s easier to handle the nerves with six years of pro hockey experience under his belt.
“It’s a little different (being) that I am an older guy,” Cannone told me. “I’m also a rookie at the same time. I feel like that plays to my advantage a little bit. There will still be some nerves in the beginning but those will settle down.”
His story is one so many of us can relate to. A guy with a lot of heart, who works hard but never quite does enough to get that call up. It was a story that resonated with Bruce Boudreau who bounced up and down from the minors during his playing career and spent nine seasons coaching in the minors before being called up to coach the Washington Capitals during the 2007-2008 season. While that was not the only behind Cannone’s call up, the opportunity to give a journeyman a chance and spread some hope, was a nice benefit.
“I was there (in the minors) for 33 years, I sort of get to like those guys,” Boudreau said. “A lot of those guys are good enough to play, but at a certain age you’re not deemed a prospect and when you’re not a prospect you don’t get the opportunities. So when Chuck (Fletcher) is calling the guy up and doing this I think it’s a special thing. And it’ll make everyone in Iowa better if they know they’ll all have opportunities to play in the NHL if they do well enough.”
For Cannone, who has now played in just a few games, a chance is all he ever really wished for.
“You just try to help any way possible and keep these going,” Cannone said.
And keep himself up in St. Paul as long as he can.
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