First games are rough, no matter who you are, no matter what level of play, it’s going to be nerve-wracking and it often isn’t going to be your best. That was surely not the case last night for center Justin Hodgman, who scored his first goal in his first NHL game. Not only did he score, but he scored the goal that ultimately got the game to even go into overtime to bring the Coyotes out over the Florida Panthers.
Hodgman has a lengthy resume with hockey. Between the OHL, SM-Liiga, IHL, ECHL, OPJHL, AHL, and KHL he has had a very diverse hockey experience. This summer, he signed with the Coyotes as a free agent, so he would undergo the gruesome training camp. Ultimately, the choice for him to get some game play down in the AHL with the Portland Pirates, won, and he was assigned down to the AHL. With the injuries of Martin Hanzal, and David Moss, the need to bring someone up was imminent. Hodgman was the lucky one, and just from seeing him jump into the boards after his goal, the excitement and appreciation illuminated out of him.
Watching him out on the ice you could see the drive he had to prove himself. When he made mistakes, he had a little hop in his skate, and it was almost his way of saying that he needed to recover from it. He was getting in there and trying to get the puck in the right place, which ultimately he did.
Talking to him post-game was like talking to a little kid who just got told he was going to live at Disneyland…. the smile was not wiped off of his face. He was so ecstatic, and even asked if he could keep the ‘Player of the Game’ wrestling belt (I’m pretty sure the answer was no). He said he was so happy he “didn’t even want to take his jersey off”.
Hodgman on the game:
“[On training camp] It was tough. To have that type of training camp and to be here was absolutely amazing. I don’t know if I expected it out of myself, I just knew I was going to put [forth] my best effort. You know, to get sent down, they know what’s best. They wanted me to play games. I think it helped. I didn’t have the best weekend, but it was good to get some competition and not just sit around here. So going into tonight, I felt very prepared and it was obviously the best decision. [On his goal, and celebration] Oh man, I don’t know. I’m sure I’ve got a bunch of phone calls to make and a bunch of text messages… The support from back home and all over the world has been unbelievable. I got a message from my coach in Russia when I made the team out of training camp, so the support’s been unbelievable and I make sure I reply to every message, and just go out and celebrate with the boys. [On his time in the KHL last year] There were some tough times being over there, but I just made the decision that I was going to come back and give it a go. No matter what the contract was, I’d come back here… I just figured this might be my last shot with my age getting up there. Right now it’s paying off and I’m just going to keep working and keep this thing rolling.”
The support’s been unbelievable and I make sure I reply to every message… – Justin Hodgman
His teammates were overall impressed about the milestone that he accomplished in only his first game, and his play throughout the game.
Teammates on Hodgman:
“I thought he played a really good game. He’s obviously a skilled guy, but he works hard and he deserves it”
Sam Gagner on being on the ice for the goal:
“There’s nothing more exciting than that [scoring your first NHL goal] obviously you work your entire life to get to this level and Hodg has taken a long road. He’s been through a lot to get here, so, I know how excited he was and it’s obviously great to share in that moment”
“Last year at this time he’s playing in Russia somewhere and he has a family back home watching that game probably and he’s feeling good, I mean those are stories, that’s why you play the game to be a NHL player and score a NHL goal and to get one in his first game at his age is pretty special.”
The Coyotes were able to pull out a win on an overtime PP goal. Justin Hodgman not only got to score his first goal, but he was able to experience his first NHL win. He is also able to say that he helped the team get that win.
Now Hodgman can officially add “NHL Game Scorer” to his lengthy list of hockey experience.
Click on the link below and you can hear Hodgman’s response about the game: