Los Angeles, CA. What's it like being an 18 year old who is about to be drafted by an NHL team? Most likely they are feeling a mixed bag of emotions. I had a chance to speak with Mark Pysyk and his family yesterday at an NHL function and Pysyk told me that he was very excited, a little nervous, and didn't know what to expect. But soon enough, his lifelong dream will become a reality.
Mark laughed when asked about where he got his athleticism. "It wasn't from him", he pointed to his father. His dad smiled and agreed. "You don't get to play much hockey when you work a farm", he replied. "Hockey was not even on my mind most times."
The old hockey pond would even get chopped up if possible during the winter so that the livestock could get water. There was no Staal-like home-made rink on his farm near Edmonton, Alberta where Pysyk grew up. But he did have plenty of opportunity to play hockey, the game he loves. His best friend's dad was a major influence on him and would coach him as a youngster.
Pysyk ended up playing for his hometown junior team, the Edmonton Oil Kings and made a great impression. "Mark carried our team on his back a lot of nights this winter and the fact that he played on a broken foot for a couple of games before he was forced to end his season early shows how much character he's developed", said team General Manager, Bob Green.
Unfortunately due to his broken foot, several scouts never had a chance to see Pysyk play this past season. Still, his stats were respectable as he scored 7 goals and chipped in with 17 assists in 48 games. More importantly, he played in all situations and logged a lot of minutes.
Both father and son idolize Bobby Orr, who happened to coach the younger Pysyk at the 2010 CHL Top Prospects Game. The young defenseman wore an old jersey his first game back when he returned home after the event because Orr had autographed the one he brought to the game and he did not want to wear it. "But it's Bobby Orr!", Pysyk said when asked about the jersey switch.
I asked the Pysyk's about the process of choosing an agent and both parents nodded in agreement that it was an arduous ordeal. "We had 20 agents calling us for about two years," they said. "We finally narrowed it down to two or three that we felt most comfortable with, then made the final decision based upon a gut feeling."
It's certainly a family affair with this group as even Mark's grandfather keeps tabs on him. (see photo above). One of Pysyk's pre-game rituals is wearing his grandfather's cuff links to every game and his hockey hero growing up was Jarome Iginla because his grandfather was a fan of both Iginla and the Calgary Flames.
You better believe that no one will be smiling more than his grandpa on Friday night, when Mark Pysyk's name is most likely called out by Gary Bettman.
Maybe son will soon be able to hire some help for his dad to work on the farm outside of Edmonton?