Dec. 29, 2018, was not the lead-up to a Happy New Year for Drake Caggiula.
It started as a normal afternoon in the middle of an Edmonton Oilers homestand. As it turned out, Caggiula had played his last game in Oilers colours.
“I was playing video games with my buddies and I got a text from my agent saying, ‘Have you heard anything about being traded?'” Caggiula recalled.
His agent was minutes away from boarding a flight to the Dominican Republic and had heard Caggiula might be on the move.
“Now my heart rate is about 200,” said Caggiula, who about 30 minutes later got a call from then Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli. He and Jason Garrison were on the move to Chicago for Brandon Manning and Robin Norell.
“It was a crazy experience for me. I never saw it coming,” Caggiula said. “Then I had to sit in Edmonton for six days before my visa got worked out. Most trades probably go a little smoother than that one.
“Getting traded right around the holiday season is a difficult time.”
Caggiula, 26, can remember walking into the Blackhawks dressing room for the first time, joining a franchise with three Stanley Cups in the last 10 years.
“It was pretty humbling,” he remembered. “You walk in there and see the pictures and all the Stanley Cup stuff. My two favourite players growing up were (Jonathan) Toews and (Patrick) Kane. I had their jerseys when I was a kid.”
Caggiula is looking forward to the future, and not just because of the upcoming qualifying round series with the Oilers. He got engaged in May and on June 7, he and his fiancée Laura found out they are expecting a baby boy.
The gender reveal featured Caggiula shooting pucks in Laura’s parents’ backyard. He had to hit a target that would explode with blue or pink powder. It was one of the highest pressure shots of his career.
“I said I had to make sure I got some practice rounds in,” he laughed.
The original plan was for him to hit five targets to reveal the gender.
“After I took about 20 practice shots to hit two targets, I said, ‘No, thank you. Let’s just do one.’ First one went underneath. Second one went over the net. I was fortunate enough to hit it on the third,” Caggiula said.
The baby is due in early November. Caggiula will head to Chicago in the next week or two for training camp. Then, it’s the series against the Oilers.
“It adds fuel to the fire. You’re playing against your old organization. You want to show maybe they gave up on you a little bit too early.”