(Photo: NHL Sharks)
In Canada, growing up and growing up hockey are one in the same. For 27-year-old San Jose Sharks forward Andrew Desjardins, the mold remains similar to many of his NHL counterparts – love the game early and often. Some of the greatest childhood memories stem from experiences one has with the game, a sentiment that rings true for Desjardins.
“Playing with all my friends, we used to have a tournament called Silver Sticks, so I’d have to say going to that with my friends. Getting to play out of town, staying at hotels, things like that. We won a few tournaments and we won the Silver Stick one time, so that’s a great memory from my youth.”
Teammates help you on the ice, but it’s often the idols you watch during time spent off the ice that grow ones desires to pursue the game.
“I always loved Joe Sakic – he was an all around player and leader. He was a guy that had it all and I thought he was the best.”
While Sakic may have been the best professionally in Desjardins eyes, in the home outside the arena, the most important group of people were and still remain, his family.
“To this day, I have so many people that I’m thankful to for helping with my career. My family was huge with the support, driving me to the rink when I was younger and being there for me. We didn’t have a lot of hockey players in the family,but my family are huge fans, they’d come support me in Junior, now once or twice a season they come watch me in San Jose, a huge support system to my career.”
To find success on the ice, a player must thrive off of it. One doesn’t thrive without the support of friends and family who are willing to stride in and help chase the dream.
“To have them in my corner always is special. I’d say that my family as a whole is definitely my biggest off-ice inspiration.”
Having the notion to follow your dreams is one thing, but occasionally a little nudge of verbal support can go a very long way.
“It all came from my family, my mom actually. When I was young and deciding on whether to go to Canadian University or to go play professional, my mom told me to follow my heart and do what I thought was best. I always wanted to play professionally whether in the minors, or working my way to the NHL. I think that piece of advice she gave me was one of the best I’ve ever received – she always backed me on it. It helped me to work towards following my dream, and obviously it’s paid off.”
Playing minor hockey in his native Ontario, Desjardin’s found himself drafted by the S.S. Marie Greyhounds during the 2002 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection. Going on to find success with the team for four seasons beginning in 2003.
“The Greyhounds were a huge stepping stone for me, I learned how to play the game properly, you learn different roles on the team and learn to be a more all around player. I was a checker there, it was huge to have a specific role on a team – before that when I was younger, everyone would just try to be a goal scorer and the game isn’t about just that. You have to learn to grow as a player and the Greyhounds gave that to me.”
Similar to many players in the league today, OHL to the NHL wasn’t the way things unfolded. Desjardins went on to dominate the ice and develop his game within the American Hockey League. Playing three seasons with the Worcester Sharks allowed for 74 regular season games and a showing in 12 playoff games. The chance to continue to grow was a welcomed one, crediting Worcester and their system as a major factor in the type of dynamic player you now see him as in the NHL.
“Huge, but again similar with the roles and learning about the game but at a higher level. We had a good team and a great system, the game was more detailed and it helped me in my development. Worcester was a key spot for me in my career, giving me the tools and the opportunity for the taking to make it to the next level.”
With the ultimate goal for any player being the big show, Desjardins was no different, the memories that accompany finally reaching the top remain fresh in his mind.
“Getting to the NHL, it’s a huge accomplishment to find my way and break into the league. I think playing as a rookie in the playoffs was huge as well, being able to step in and play a few years ago. That’s a memory that’s up there.”
Often referred to as a non-traditional market, the hockey scene in San Jose is anything but extraordinary, a concept that players thrive on when discussing their fan base.
“People think hockey’s not big here [in San Jose], the past 20 or so years they’ve developed such a hockey following here. People are starting to play, people enjoy watch it, everyone in the community is involved. It’s one of the loudest buildings in the league. It’s kind of neat seeing people strapping on skates when they’re 30-35 years-old for the first time, just trying to play the game and it’s fun to think we help contribute to that. The fans and the community are just awesome.”
It’s because of the fans that players don’t mind the often intense schedule that accompanies the job description. Finding moments to relax off the ice can be challenging, but when they come, Desjardins enjoys them to their fullest.
” I usually hang out with my french bulldog and my wife a lot, we just hang out and keep it pretty simple. My down time is exactly that, my down time. I don’t do a heck of a lot. Relax and get ready for the next game.”
Enjoy the downtime when it skates by is key to finding continued on-ice success. With a good chunk of the season already in the books and San Jose dominating in the west, it’s important to keep the team skating towards the ultimate prize.
“It’s a tough grind, but I’m a hard worker, fans can expect me to try to get more physical and keep the momentum that we’ve had going. Play a tough game, but a simple one too.”
A work ethic and easy going personality have marked Andrew Desjardins as a perfect 10 in terms of offensive power, lending a stick to the success of Sharks Territory.