The first encounter:
I remember it like it was yesterday.
I received a phone call in my hotel room in Edmonton from Kelowna Rockets General Manager Bruce Hamilton informing me that 15 year-old prospect Shane McColgan and his father (Shane Sr.) had arrived and were waiting in the lobby for me to conduct a scheduled interview.
For a young Shane McColgan this was exciting times. For a broadcaster of the home team, it was my first chance to meet this California born hockey player that everyone talked so fondly about. McColgan would make his Rockets debut a night later in Red Deer, Alberta before eventually scoring his first career goal a night later against the expansion Edmonton Oil Kings.
The face of the franchise:
While still young and a full year away from playing full time with the Rockets, Shane McColgan was going to be the face of the franchise. Many hockey fans in the Okanagan were holding their breath when Director of Player Personnel Lorne Frey selected the skilled forward 13th overall in the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft. The concern arose after American born Luke Moffatt snubbed the team after selecting the Arizona product in the first round - 2nd overall - in 2007. But unlike Moffatt, McColgan was committed to playing in the WHL and his first career game in Red Deer would be the coming out party for a player that some projected would become a first round NHL draft pick just three short seasons later.
Shane McColgan was like any young American hockey prospect I've interviewed in the past. They are confident in their abilities and have a certain laid back style to them. It is much different than the usual shy, cautious approach that us Canadian's tend to exhibit. My first thought after interviewing McColgan was that if he was as good on the ice as he was behind the microphone, our relationship as player/broadcaster was going to blossom.
And it did.
Shane McColgan was fun to interview.
He was comfortable with his thoughts and didn't mind sharing his opinion. He was a free spirit which made for good radio.
My greatest memory of Shane McColgan was a game played April 7/2011 at the Rose Garden in Portland.
It was game one of second round playoff series between the Rockets and the Winter Hawks. McColgan played arguably the best game of his career and literally was the dominant force the team envisioned when they picked him in 08. McColgan scored three goals and collected and assist in a game one win and riled up the crowd in the process. On that single night, the then 17 year-old, was a force.
Did he become the player I envisioned after three seasons in the WHL?
Don't get me wrong, he is a darn good player. He is a point a game guy. Unfortunately he never matched the exploits of Ryan Nugent Hopkins or Ty Rattie, two players that literally have you holding your breath every time the puck is on their stick. While he led the team in scoring in back-to-back seasons, his point totals in his third season failed to equal the career high 69 points he put up as a 16 year-old.
One could argue that a supporting cast, or lack-thereof, was a reason behind the leveling off of his point totals. That is up for debate.
He always provided a chuckle
McColgan had a quirky sense of humor. The things he said on the bus, which I won't repeat here, often made you shake your head and chuckle. He liked to make wisecracks about his teammates and was a master at it.
Come to think of it, I don't remember one conversation that he wasn't involved in.
He liked conversation and that may explain why he was so good with a microphone in his face.
Sure, I will miss him:
Like any player that leaves the Rockets organization, I wish him the best. I want to see these player excel no matter whether it is in hockey or in life. I don't know what scars they may have left behind them, nor do I want to know. All I want to remember is the wide-eyed kid with a full face mask taking to the ice at the Enmax Centrium in Red Deer on a cold December night trying to realize his dream of playing in the NHL.
Shane McColgan's road to the big league's will take many turns.
I hope he feels as fortunate as I do that his path, which for a short period of time, made it's way through Kelowna, British Columbia.