Tyson Barrie may have 554 NHL games under his belt, but he’ll never forget his first.
Particularly his terror as he took the ice for the Colorado Avalanche against the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 7, 2012.
But it’s not a sentiment the free-wheeling Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman shares with rookies before they make their debut.
“I tell guys when they play their first game now, like ‘Oh, yeah get a shift or two — get a hit. You’ll get more comfortable.’ And I was not like that at all,” Barrie said in an appearance on Monday’s episode of In Conversation with Ron MacLean.
“I played my whole game, I couldn’t even like hold my stick I was shaking so bad. I kinda lie to younger guys when they come up and say like, ‘Hey, get your first shift (in) and then it’ll all be good.’
“I remember my first game, I was petrified the whole time.”
Barrie has gone on to rack up 346 points and has been one of the NHL’s top offensive producers from the blue line during his time in the league, but the son of former NHLer Len Barrie wasn’t always confident in his ability to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Barrie told MacLean that he didn’t use to enjoy the less glamorous side of the game. As an eight-year-old in Florida, where his dad was playing with the Panthers, he would cry on the way to practice.
“I used to go to practice and I hated it. I was a little on the chunky side, too, so I didn’t like the hard work, I think. I liked the stickhandling and the shooting,” Barrie said.
But upon returning to Canada after his father’s NHL career wrapped up, Barrie started to enjoy the game as all of his friends were “gung-ho” on it.
His dad built him a “hockey box” in the backyard of their family home in Victoria and couldn’t get him out of there.
“We had a rule, like I wasn’t allowed to shoot pucks past 9 p.m. or something because the neighbours were losin’ it,” Barrie recalled.
While Barrie excelled enough to be selected by the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, the five-foot-11, 197-pound rearguard still believed his NHL aspirations to be a “pipe dream.”
It wasn’t until he was called up from Colorado’s AHL affiliate for his debut that it truly hit him — those dreams had come true.
“That was a pretty surreal moment,” Barrie said.