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From a rocky start to hockey star: Calgary teen embraces NHL journey

Anaheim Ducks select Brayden Tracey during the first round NHL draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Friday, June, 21, 2019. .
Anaheim Ducks select Brayden Tracey during the first round NHL draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Friday, June, 21, 2019. . THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

“I absolutely hated it.”

It’s not quite how you expect an NHL prospect to remember their first time on the ice.

Needless to say, Brayden Tracey and hockey didn’t exactly get off to a great start.

“He was not a fan,” Tracey’s dad, Peter, recalled.

“We had him out on the little walker thing and he was like, ‘Dad, get me off the ice. I’m not doing this.'”

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That attitude changed around the time Tracey figured out how to score.

Brayden’s mom, Carina, says he was inseparable from his hockey gear one he learned to love skating.
Brayden’s mom, Carina, says he was inseparable from his hockey gear one he learned to love skating. Carina Tracey

Turns out, that’s what the winger does best.

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The 18-year-old player is fresh off his first WHL season with the Moose Jaw Warriors, where he was named the league’s rookie of the year with a blistering 81 points in 66 games — and caught the attention of NHL scouts.

READ MORE: Calgary Flames select forward Jakob Pelletier 26th overall at NHL Draft

At the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver, the Anaheim Ducks selected Tracey 29th overall in the first round.

“A day before, they asked me, ‘If you’re available at 29, what do you think about it?'” Tracey said. “So I had a bit of a gut feeling, but it felt like I was sitting there for three days.

“Once I got in that chair, I was so nervous and just waiting for the pick to come.”

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Two days later, Tracey was on a plane to southern California for the Ducks’ development camp.

“He grew up lots in the last couple of years, but it’s coming to that point where he’s going to be away from home,” Peter said. “Right now he’s in Moose Jaw, which is close. Now, it’s another part of the world.”

For now, Tracey is back home in Calgary, training six days a week to prepare for the upcoming season, and channeling words of advice from Ducks star Hampus Lindholm.

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“He said, ‘If you’re not pushing other players to be better, you’ll never be the best,'” Tracey said. “I want to be pro when I’m 19 or 20. Obviously, 19 would be tough to crack a spot.”

READ MORE: Different paths, same goal for Calgary Flames development camp prospects

In two more weeks, Tracey will head back to the United States, chasing a dream and a feeling.

“Every time you score, you get that feeling in your stomach when the fans are all up on their feet and you’re cellying (celebrating) — it’s awesome.”