On the surface, Wranglers forward Judd Blackwater appears to be the antithesis of Happy Gilmore, the title character from the Adam Sandler movie about a frustrated hockey player who becomes a professional golfer.
Growing up in Lethbridge, Alberta, Blackwater emerged as an excellent junior golfer who carved out a 4 handicap and twice qualified for his country's national tournament. But he always aspired to play pro hockey.
"I pretty much knew hockey was the main thing," the 24-year-old said. "Golf was just kind of a hobby."
Blackwater, who started playing hockey when he was 4 years old, was introduced to golf by his older brother when he was 10.
"We lived out in the country, and my brother golfed a little bit," he said. "I whacked the ball around out in the country and ended up hitting it pretty good.
"I started playing a little bit, and it just kind of came natural."
A left-handed shooter on the ice, Blackwater is a right-handed golfer. On the subject of his hands, Las Vegas coach Ryan Mougenel said Blackwater's are among the best in the business.
"His hands are through the roof. His skill with the puck is like nobody I've ever seen, and I've played with some pretty good players," Mougenel said. "Martin St. Louis and I were rookies in Cleveland (of the defunct International Hockey League) and I don't think he could hold a candle to (Blackwater's) hands."
After netting one goal in his first five games this season, the 6-foot, 195-pound Blackwater embarked on an ECHL season-best 11-game point streak that ended Monday in a 4-0 loss at Utah, leaving Las Vegas with a 9-5-3 record.
Blackwater, who had a hat trick Friday at Utah, tallied nine goals and 12 assists during his tear to take the league scoring lead with 22 points.
He credits linemates Eric Lampe and Pete MacArthur for much of his success. Lampe leads the league in goals with 15, and MacArthur was leading the league in assists with 12 before he was called up Thursday to the American Hockey League.
"(The streak) didn't start until I started playing with Lampe and MacArthur," Blackwater said. "We all kind of heated up one game and went from there."
Blackwater split time between the ECHL (Fresno, Stockton) and AHL (Rockford, Rochester) in his rookie season of 2008-09. He then compiled 26 goals and 56 points in 63 ECHL games for Stockton and Alaska in 2009-10.
Partly to escape living in Alaska, where he earned ECHL All-Star honors, Blackwater spent last season with Allen (Texas) of the Central Hockey League, scoring 20 goals and 49 points in 49 games.
"(Alaska) was awesome for hockey," Blackwater said. "It was just Alaska. I didn't enjoy being up there as much."
Blackwater also joined Allen hoping he would get promoted to one of three area AHL teams, but it didn't happen.
Determined to climb the ranks this season, Blackwater reported to training camp in the best shape of his career.
"I really committed to eating right and living right," he said. "I went to the gym almost every day. I knew I had to have a good year."
Mougenel said Blackwater could excel in the AHL.
"He's got to go somewhere where he can score on the top two lines," he said. "He can play. The best thing about Judd is he's still a young kid."
If hockey doesn't work out, Blackwater could always try his luck on the links.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354.