On Sunday morning, Patrick Holland was a member of the Montreal Canadiens organization. By mid-afternoon he was traded to the Jets and making his debut with the St. John’s IceCaps.
©— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Edited to correct Tangradi's first name
As they lined up next to each other for the opening face-off of Sunday afternoon’s deciding game of the Mary’s Cup pre-season American Hockey League series between the St. John’s IceCaps and Hamilton Bulldogs, Patrick Holland leaned over to Eric Tangradi.
“This is weird,” said Holland.
Then the puck was dropped and the two wingers embarked of the next stages of their hockey careers, trying to get used to the new colours they were wearing and the idea of playing against guys who had been their teammates — or in Tangradi’s case, almost teammates — earlier in the day.
Just a few hours before, Tangradi had been in the dressing room of the IceCaps, getting his head wrapped around being in the minors after two full years in the NHL with the parent Winnipeg Jets and preparing to put on an IceCaps jersey for the first time. Holland, meanwhile, was enjoying in a pre-game nap in his St. John’s hotel room. Then came word of a trade between Winnipeg and Montreal Canadiens, the Bulldogs’ NHL affiliate. Veteran goalie Peter Budaj and Holland were going from the Habs to the Jets, with Tangradi headed the other way.
The latter found out from Winnipeg assistant general manager Craig Heisinger, who was in St. John’s for Sunday’s game, which the Bulldogs won 4-0 to take the best-of-three Mary's Cup 2-1.
“I had my gear on, my underwear and a heat pack on, getting ready to play when (Heisinger) told me what had happened,” related Tangradi. “I said ‘Are you joking with me?’ But he said he was dead serious, that he wasn’t kidding and that I actually might play (Sunday’s game with the Bulldogs).
“This business never ceases to surprise you, but this definitely was a unique situation.”
Well maybe not that unique for Tangradi.
“When I was with Pittsburgh, I got traded to Winnipeg (in a 2012 deal that saw the Penguins get a draft pick),” he said. “That night, Winnipeg was playing Pittsburgh and my first game (for the Jets) was against Pittsburgh.
“I guess maybe these situations try to find me.”
Holland had no such previous experience. Originally a seventh-round draft pick of the Calgary Flames, the 22-year-old right-winger had been sent to the Canadiens as part of a 2012 deal that brought Mike Cammalleri to Calgary, but that was a matter of his rights being traded — he was still playing in the junior ranks with the Western Hockey League’s Tri-City Americans.
This time, he was actually on the move, even if it was just the 40-foot distance between Mile One dressing rooms.
The call to Holland’s hotel room on Sunday came from Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin, but it went to voice mail as he slept.
“When I got the message, I knew it was either because I had been called up or traded and that it was probably the latter,” said Holland, whose assumption was verified when he phoned Bergevin back.
“Then it was a matter waiting to find out what was going to happen. For example, was I going to play against my old team?”
That turned out to be Holland’s call. He met with Heisinger and then was introduced to IceCaps’ head coach Keith McCambridge, the assistant coaches and some of the players.
“Then they asked me if I wanted to play and I said I did, figuring it would be the best way to get accustomed to my new teammates and stuff, so I took the warm-ups and played the game,” said Holland.
And that’s how he found himself lined up against Tangradi, who may have been even more of a daze.
On Friday, the 25-year-old winger had been placed on waivers by Winnipeg, cleared 24 hours later and was assigned to St. John’s, arriving late Saturday. But before he even got to put on any kind of an IceCaps jersey — they didn’t have a game-day skate Sunday morning — he was traded.
As surrealistic as it might have been, it was a change Tangradi welcomed,
“The last 24, 48 hours were some of the darkest of my career. It felt like things were almost hitting rock bottom and I needed to get myself out a hole and this definitely helps,” he said.
“It gives you that spark and it also helps with the anger in your stomach, where you want to redeem yourself and prove a lot of people of wrong.
“Plus, I’m with one of the most unique, if not most unique, organizations in the sport. I feel blessed for the opportunity.”
Holland was adopting the same sort of attitude.
“We’ve come to St. John’s quite a bit (with the Bulldogs over the last two seasons) and whenever we’re here, you’re talking with the guys about what it would be like to play here,” he said. “Now, I get to find out. Obviously, there are great fans here, where they sell out the building pretty much every night and last year, they had a really great team.
“And it seems like a great city.”
Holland’s appreciation was expanded this past week as the IceCaps and Bulldogs began the three-game Mary’s Cup tournament with games in Grand Falls-Windsor and Gander.
“It’s Newfoundland and playing out here may be intimidating for some people, but this trip I got to see more than the one-block radius around (Mile One) where we usually hang out,” said the Lethbridge, Alta., native.
“I really enjoyed it. It was peaceful with all that untouched wilderness and the people are super, super nice wherever you go.
“So it’s exciting in a lot of ways, not just because it’s a fresh start in my hockey career. So I’m going to embrace it.”