The closest Andrew Mangiapane has ever come to representing his country was when he got a Team Canada jersey for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The name stitched on the back was Crosby, and the tiny winger trying to fill it out was just 14.
The unlikely path he took from there, from OHL walk-on to being overlooked in his first of two NHL drafts, all led to a phone call from Team Canada assistant GM Shane Doan earlier this week with an invite to don the maple leaf at the upcoming 2021 IIHF World Championship.
“I never dreamed of it,” said the soft-spoken Flames winger.
“I mean, you dream of it all the time, but it was so surreal to be called. It was great to hear from him. It’s an honour. It’s an honour to get the call and I was just filled with joy.”
Asked if there was any point in his career he wondered if he was even being considered for a national camp invite, the 25-year-old Flames sixth rounder shrugged.
“Honestly, no I wasn’t,” said Mangiapane, whose size likely worked against him despite posting back-to-back 100-point seasons with the Barrie Colts.
“Maybe in junior when I started putting up points and all that. When I was younger, no way. That’s why it’s so surreal to be going. I’ve never been asked to really do anything. I haven’t been overseas, I haven’t done anything for Team Canada. I still can’t even believe it. You put in all the work to win the Stanley Cup and you want to play world juniors and the world championship and you want to experience the whole hockey world.”
The invite marks the latest significant step in a career that saw him go from regular NHLer last year to top six fixture this season.
Given his work ethic, tenacity and finish, some believe he will soon be amongst the Flames’ top scorers.
For proof it’s possible, the five-foot-10, 184-pound forward moved into a tie for the team lead in even strength goals on Thursday with a nifty deflection that stood as his third game-winner of the season in a 4-1 win over Vancouver. Twelve of his 14 goals have come at even strength in a season where he’s been one of the few bright spots for a team playing out a string of three more meaningless games against the Canucks before he packs for Europe.
An opportunity to continue building his confidence in Riga, Latvia starting May 21 will only help.
What makes his feel-good journey even better is that he’ll cross the pond for the first time while sitting beside long-time teammate and pal Dillon Dube.
“Dillon and I go way back – even in Penticton days we were roommates there,” said Mangiapane of the team’s former prospects training camp site.
“It’s honestly awesome. We grew up in the same kind of role and competing to make the NHL together. Now going overseas, it’s going to be fun. When we both got the call and were talking about it, it was ‘You go if I go, and I go if you go.” We both decided to go and it’s going to be awesome.”
Mangiapane not only managed to maintain his top-six status all season long, he also added regular power play and penalty killing duties to make him one of the most versatile and dependable forwards.
Dube’s season hasn’t been as smooth, as his early season perch on the top line gave way to a fourth line gig and some tough love under Darryl Sutter.
His first invite to the worlds is a chance to end the year on a higher note.
“For me, I owe them a lot – they’ve given me a lot throughout my years,” said Dube, eternally grateful for Team Canada opportunities like the one that saw him captain the country to world junior gold in 2018.
“I think every time – through U-18, world juniors, and this – it feels like every time you get a new opportunity and it feels like your first time going over and playing for them. It’s an honour every time.”
A bigger honour experiencing it with his former roomie and pal.
“When you go to these tournaments it’s a little different, and you don’t know too many guys,” said Dube, who had 10 goals this year after being one of the top three Flames players in last year’s playoff bubble.
“If you have a really close friend with you, especially for us for trying to make Calgary and trying to stay here together, and going to this tournament together and trying to win a tournament together. It will be pretty cool just the stuff we’ve been through. It’s going to help each other out. I think we’ll be able to play better hockey having someone that you’re this close to.”
There’s someone even closer to Dube who will also be there to share the experience.
“Probably my biggest thing was my brother got hired by Hockey Canada about two months ago so we’re actually going together,” said Dube, joking that Jake will head up team services to ensure “Mang and I aren’t late for anything.”
“Having a chance to win a medal with your brother is something not too many people get to do.”