Last updated: October 26, 2010 5:21 pm
Dalpe turns Junior C rejection into NHL acceptance
Carolina Hurricanes' youngster overcame size issues to achieve his big league dreams
WATERLOO, Ont. (CUP) — It’s not often you hear about a 20-year-old hockey player making the jump to the NHL after being cut from a Junior C club, but for Carolina Hurricanes forward Zac Dalpe, that was exactly the case.
Barely five years after being deemed “too small” to play for the Ontario Hockey Association's Paris Mounties, Dalpe has achieved a goal so many only dream of. The now 6-foot-1, 195-lb. native of Paris, Ont. is travelling the world playing professional hockey.
“‘Big time’ is what we used to call it growing up,” Dalpe said. “It’s sort of surreal being here now.”
Dalpe has made quite the trek from the beginning of his journey, starting with the Junior B Stratford Cullitons of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, followed by the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League. Most recently, he attended Ohio State University on an athletic scholarship.
After being drafted in the second round — 45th overall — by the Hurricanes in 2008, Dalpe’s quest to crack the team's roster is complete.
As a perk of making the 2010-11 squad, Dalpe was given the opportunity to play his first set of games overseas: An exhibition game in Russia and two regular season contests in Finland. Carolina picked up two wins over the Minnesota Wild and he notched his first career point in the process — an assist on an Anton Babchuk goal.
“I was honestly thinking, 'Please just score',” Dalpe laughed. “It’s not often that you get the opportunity to set up a play like that.”
With three players on the Hurricanes roster hailing from Finland, Dalpe and his teammates were able to experience some authentic Finnish traditions, including a trip to an exotic smoke-sauna on a private island — a treat from forward Tuomo Ruutu.
Now back in North America, Dalpe finds himself consistently on the move between Raleigh and the league's 29 other cities. Though quick to note how well he’s getting taken care of, alluding to the lavish hotels and meals, he admits that parts of life on the road can be difficult to adjust to.
“It’s tough doing all of this travelling and adjusting to the time changes,” Dalpe explained. “I’m used to playing just over 30 games at the college level.”
In Raleigh, Dalpe bunks with another rookie — 18-year-old Jeff Skinner, a former member of the Ontario Hockey League's Kitchener Rangers.
“All of the guys say he’s like my younger brother,” Dalpe said, who has two brothers himself. “He’s a really great guy, always laughing and has a big smile.
“I always think I’m making these really funny jokes when he’s cracking up, but then I see him have the same reaction with all the other guys and I realize it’s not just me.”
The Hurricanes’ young guns are now playing alongside some of the very players they grew up watching.
“My first game I remember looking down at the other end of the ice and seeing all these big names,” he said. “But you can’t think too much about it, because you won’t be on the ice for very much longer if they score.”
Dalpe says he now has his sights set on his first NHL goal and he’s continuing to improve his game with advice from team leaders.
The most pivotal step for him going forward will be getting the call from upper management to find more permanent living arrangements in Raleigh.
“Right now, Skinner and I are set up in a long-term stay hotel. But when you get the call to find more permanent living arrangements, you know you’ll be here awhile.”