KANATA, Ont. — Josh Currie’s journey isn’t atypical for Edmonton Oilers prospects. With parts of six seasons in the minors — including over 150 games in the East Cost Hockey League — you can’t say he hasn’t busted his tail to get here.
“Words can’t describe the last week or so. It’s a dream come true every day,” he said after a two-assist night in a 4-2 Oilers win in Ottawa. In a scene right out of the movie “Rudy,” Currie scored a goal in his second NHL game, with his folks in the stands in Edmonton.
There is, of course, some irony here: In an organization that has become famous for handing NHL jobs to 18-year-olds who skip the minor-league experience completely, Currie is an undrafted 26-year-old kid from Prince Edward Island, the grandson of a Charlottetown cobbler.
“My dad was a 30-year cop for City of Charlottetown. Mom was a nurse,” he said. His uncle flew out Currie’s grandpa, David, to the game, and on Thursday night he showed ‘em all that the work ethic didn’t skip a generation.
“For them to see me out there, it’s pretty special,” said Currie. “My grandpa, he’s 80 years old and he still works in downtown Charlottetown. He’s a shoe cobbler. The business has been going for 106 years — his grandfather started it. He still walks to work in the summers. Goes to work every day.
“Currie’s Shoe Repair — it’s still kickin’ in downtown Charlottetown.”
Currie’s centreman these days is a Battleford, Sask., kid named Colby Cave. Same deal: Undrafted, came over from Boston — AHL Providence, really — and he scored a goal Thursday.
Their left-winger is Milan Lucic, a guy Cave watched on TV as a teenager.
“The hits I remember him laying on guys,” he said. “Last night in Toronto, he just missed me and crunched some guy. It’s pretty special seeing a guy like that on your wing.”
This is where the Oilers season is, again. Not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but a loooong ways out. They took on a deflated Ottawa team playing its first home game sine dealing away Mark Stone at the deadline.
It was two ships crashing in the night, and the East Coast League kid showed everyone why, for him, there’s something to play for every night.
“It’s tough. It’s a hard league,” he said of the East Coast League “Three-in-threes (three games in as many nights) is a lot of travel. Tough bus rides. But it makes you appreciate everything a little more. Every time you move up a level, you appreciate what you worked through.
“I’m kind of glad I started there. It just made me appreciate hockey, and what I get to do every day for a living.”
His first-ever NHL assist came on a Connor McDavid goal, something they’ll never be able to take away from him. The spot in an NHL lineup, however, is something he’ll have to scratch and claw the rest of his career to hang onto. So will Cave.
“They’re not just surviving up here. They’re helping us,” head coach Ken Hitchcock said. “To me, Cave is getting better daily. The composure that Currie has… I don’t know where we’d be without the addition of a couple of these guys.”
As a career coach, Hitchcock has seen hundreds of Caves and Curries. Having these two on his roster does not necessarily speak well of what’s going on in Edmonton, but Hitchcock feels the responsibility to keep them growing.
“They helped themselves, but a lot of guys helped them get this far,” he said. “You’ve got to be really happy for all of their coaches that worked with them, and how proud they are. But, man, they look like players right now.”
After getting pasted 6-2 in Toronto the night before, then having plane issues that had the Oilers arriving at their Kanata hotel at about 3 a.m., this was a character win. Even against the depleted Sens.
“We’re all kind banding together here,” Cave said. “We had a tough game (in Toronto), and it took a lot of courage for us to come out and play the way we did.”