One of the coolest stories about the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is about a teenager who probably won’t get anywhere as close to the ice as the Zamboni drivers at T-Mobile Arena and Staples Center in Los Angeles.
That also was the case when 19-year-old Dylan Ferguson was summoned to be the Golden Knights’ goalie behind glass — in case of emergency, break it — the first time he got called up this season.
Ferguson was so far down the Knights’ depth chart that he was assigned jersey No. 1, the traditional number for a goaltender that few choose to wear these days. But when Marc-Andre Fleury suffered a concussion and backups Malcolm Subban, Oscar Dansk and Max Lagace also went out with injuries, “the Kid from Kamloops” was put into a November game at Edmonton with the Knights trailing 7-2.
He played 9 minutes, 14 seconds. He faced two shots. He saved one.
The one he saved was against Connor McDavid, after which the Oilers’ star may or may not have said “Nice stop, kid” or welcomed him to the league, which is how it was reported.
“I really don’t remember. I just kind of blacked out a little bit,” Ferguson said after Thursday’s optional practice.
It wasn’t exactly like Babe Ruth calling or not calling his shot in the World Series. But for a kid drafted 194th overall who started the season No. 5 on the depth chart, it was still pretty awesome to have Connor McDavid whisper something to him, whatever it might have been.
And in attempting to set Dylan Ferguson’s record straight, he’s really not the Kid from Kamloops, either. That’s just what the announcer said when he went into the game.
Roll the tape: “… and boy, George McPhee, general manager of the Vegas Golden Knights, is watching this and thinking ‘You’re kidding me. We’re going to put in a kid from Kamloops?’ Not that he isn’t a good goalie — he is a good goalie. But he’s a kid. From Kamloops.”
He is a kid. But he’s not from Kamloops.
Kamloops is the city in British Columbia for which the rosy-cheeked Ferguson played major junior hockey this season and the two before. He’s actually the Kid from Lantzville on Vancouver Island, a tiny town of 3,807 on the western shore of the Strait of Georgia.
“You can only get there by ferry?” I asked Ferguson, who said he had a place on the water.
“And by plane,” he said. “They have an airport now in Nanaimo.”
Still, these aren’t exactly the Twin Cities. And though Kamloops (pop. 90,280) also has charms and a heritage railway and an Earls Kitchen + Bar, where assorted Kamloops Blazers have been known to blow off steam following a tough loss to Medicine Hat or Moose Jaw or the rival Kelona Rockets, Las Vegas’ lights still seem a little brighter, Ferguson said.
That is why this is such a cool story. Even if the Kid from Lantzville gets no closer to the ice than the Zamboni drivers.
“The biggest thing is just being here and getting to travel and do those things with guys like this at this level,” Ferguson said. “I’m just a sponge right now, soaking everything in.”
He’s not exactly Scott Foster, the 36-year-old accountant the Chicago Blackhawks pulled out of the seats to stand between the pipes during a late-season game against Winnipeg. But Ferguson did have a job at Fairwinds Golf Club in Nanoose Bay, B.C., last summer where sometimes they would let him sneak a quick 18 for free.
While Ferguson and a lone reporter chatted against a distant wall, the guy he aspires to be was across the dressing room at City National Arena holding court with an Australia Wallabees-sized scrum of ice hockey reporters and bloggers and a guy from a Saskatchewan radio station wearing a Roughriders football jersey and a Golden Knights cap.
“As a goalie myself, I know that when you’re in the playoffs, you kinda just want to be left alone,” Ferguson said when asked if the master netminder Fleury had taken him under wing or waffleboard. “So I’m kind of silently watching him and seeing what he does on and off the ice and learning from that.”
But Dylan Ferguson said he did get to see Cher perform back in training camp.
It was nothing like watching Marc-Andre Fleury from a distance, although the guys at Earls in Kamloops most likely were impressed.