DALLAS — Brett Ritchie didn’t have a chance to fully comprehend the final events of 2014 until 2015 rolled around Thursday morning.
“It was a bit of a whirlwind,” Ritchie said Saturday morning. “It was something that I’ll never forget … I’d say the next day I finally took it all in. Like I said, it was such whirlwind. It’s sort of hard to believe sometimes.”
The 21-year-old forward woke up in Central Texas on New Years Eve and practiced with the Texas Stars at Chaparral Ice in Austin for a full 90 minutes. After practice, he and roommate Curtis McKenzie drove back to Cedar Park in full gear, sans skates, with plans to change at the Cedar Park Center.
During that drive he got the call from Dallas general manager Jim Nill and learned he had a plane to catch.
Ritchie then quickly packed, grabbed his suit, and parked his truck at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. He then flew to Dallas where he scored his first NHL goal on his first career NHL shot in a 6-0 victory against the Arizona Coyotes.
There wasn’t much time for instruction from Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff, either.
“I sort of came to the rink and they just said, ‘Prepare like you’re going to play,'” Ritchie said. “I don’t think they were sure I was going to play or not. So I just went out there and warmed up. I didn’t play different than any other game.”
Ritchie said the speed of the game was a “bit of a difference” from the AHL in the first period, but he “got used to it as the game went on.” Ritchie said there also weren’t any adverse effects from the travel and practicing with Texas that morning.
“Maybe on other games it might of,” Ritchie said. “But when it’s your first NHL game, nothing is going to really hold you down. I didn’t even think about it, to be honest. I was just happy to have a chance to play. I could have had the flu that morning and I would have been fine.”
He did have to scramble for a phone charger that night.
“It was pretty busy, it took me a while to get through all the texts,” Ritchie said. “My phone actually died. I was out with the guys and I didn’t answer a lot of the texts until the next morning. But there was a lot of support on there for sure.”