Andrew Ladd of the New York Islanders was honored by one of his former teams, a demonstration of just how far he has come.
Unless you’re the next superstar of the NHL like Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews, every player has to begin somewhere small, whether it’s the WHL, OHL, or AHL.
For Andrew Ladd, that journey began with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. Tonight, Ladd’s former team honored him by hanging a banner with his name in their ring of honor at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.
Ladd originally began his professional hockey career in 2001 with the Vancouver Giants at the age of 16. Ladd played in one game with the team before being cut and told he wasn’t good enough.
That didn’t stop Ladd from achieving his dream of being a hockey player.
He went on to play for the Coquitlam Express of the BCHL and the Calgary Hitmen for the 2003-2004 season. This is where Ladd turned his professional hockey career around.
At the age of 18, Ladd thrived in his first season as a Hitmen, playing in 71 games and scoring 30 goals with 45 assists, playing alongside future NHL star Ryan Getzlaf. He also led the league in plus/minus with a 39.
That season led to him being drafted fourth overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2004 NHL draft.
Ladd’s great play helped him land on team Canada for the 2005 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. He played along the side of future NHL stars Shea Weber, Corey Perry, Patrice Bergeron, and Sidney Crosby.
Ladd, along with these stars, helped lead Canada to its 11th World Juniors title, beating Russia 6-1 in the championship game.
After being drafted by the Hurricanes, he played one more season for the Hitmen, recording 19 goals and 26 assists in 65 games. This season was also during the lockout season for the NHL, so Ladd and the Hitmen got to play in front of bigger crowds than usual. The team pulled in over 360,000 fans that season — 45,000 more than their previous record.
“Having played in the Saddledome for those years, especially the one lockout year when we were the only show in town in terms of hockey and we had great crowds every night … Every time you kinda go back in that arena, it’s a good feeling,” Ladd told Daniel Austin of the Calgary Herald.
Ladd was grateful for his two year tenure with the Hitmen.
“You’re making decisions, trying to figure out who you are as a person, living those life lessons as you go. That all happened for me in Calgary here,” Ladd told Arthur Staple of Newsday. “It was a pleasure and I was lucky to be a part of such a great organization.”
He has certainly come a long way since being told he wasn’t good enough at the age of 17. The 31-year-old already has almost 500 career points and two Stanley Cup rings during his NHL tenure.
Islander fans hope he can add to his resumé after inking a seven year deal last summer.