by Beth Alderson || AHL On The Beat Archive
Few people have the opportunity or the determination to realize their childhood dreams.
But after eight years of working toward his goal, Peoria Rivermen defenseman Tyson Strachan came face-to-face with his chance when he was invited to participate in the NHL training camp with the St. Louis Blues prior to the 2008-2009 season.
The 24-year-old began with no idea of what to expect, grateful for any time that would be spent in the atmosphere of the professionals of the National Hockey League.
“I only expected to be there for a few days. They gave the first cuts, and then the second and the third, and I still wasn’t on the list,” said Strachan. “Then [Blues head coach] Andy Murray came up to me and said, ‘You’ll play tomorrow,’ and I actually ended up playing in back-to-back games.”
When Strachan found out that his parents would not be able to attend his first preseason game in the NHL, Murray, the head coach for the Blues, went out of his way for his new player.
“He called my parents and sent pictures of my jersey and things like that,” Strachan said. “It was so nice to see that from a man in his position. It really is a great organization.”
And despite the intensity, the power, and the tough exteriors that are brought to the ice, it’s the gestures like Murray’s that remind fans that these players are real people. They’re working their way up a ladder just the way those in a corporate world do. Only in the arena, it’s more acceptable to be a little more physical about it.
Unfortunately for Strachan, his time in the NHL was cut short after his first two exhibition games, and he returned to Peoria as the final defenseman cut from Blues camp. Now in his second professional season, he has played in 22 games with one goal and two assists on the year.
Strachan is no stranger to Peoria. He was a part of 34 games with the Rivermen in the 2007-08 season after being signed to a professional tryout agreement. While injuries created his opportunity his play made it last three and a half months.
“It’s tough, knowing that any day they could come in with a plane ticket for you and send you home,” said Strachan. “But there are guys doing it all the time. You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.”
As far as being back in the AHL, the Melfort, Sask., native is optimistic.
“You start off in the ECHL, and it seems like such a long journey. But then when you’re in the AHL, you’re one phone call away,” Strachan reasoned. “I use being back here as motivation to work that much harder.”
The motivation in the arena among his teammates is high, according to Strachan. The atmosphere is full of players who are striving to reach that next level, who are working extra hard to achieve their goals now that they are so close.
“The hardest thing is trying to be consistent for an 80-game season,” Strachan said. “Trying to keep getting better and doing well over such a long time.”
Strachan began playing competitively at age 16, first with Tisdale and then leaving his hometown for Vernon of the British Columbia Hockey League for one season. After being drafted in the fifth round of the 2003 draft by the Carolina Hurricanes, he attended Ohio State University to continue his hockey career.
The developing hockey program at OSU was no mystery to Strachan; the progress of the team in the last decade was work the defenseman was well aware of.
In just a little over a year following his four seasons at OSU, Strachan spent time with Peoria and the ECHL Las Vegas Wranglers, and signed an NHL contract with St. Louis. Though constant moving is an accepted factor among all players, he doesn’t find it difficult. In fact, the camaraderie that is built is one of this player’s favorite aspects of being part of the team.
“People always ask that about hockey – what’s the best thing about it?” Strachan explained. “It’s an easy answer. It’s the friends that you make. Sure, you’re moving around, but you know as soon as you get there you’ve got 25 friends right away.”
While Strachan’s top preference is to trade in the Peoria skyline for the St. Louis Arch as quickly is possible, it’s that desire, determination and intensity along with his spirit and optimistic attitude, that makes Peoria happy to have him back in a Rivermen sweater.