Former Clipper Rycroft Cracks NHL Lineup With St. Louis
By Michael Rhode
October 26th 2001
Daily News - Nanaimo, B.C.
Mark Rycroft's initial stint in the National Hockey League may be short, but that hasn't kept him from having the time of his life.
The Former Nanaimo Clippers forward and Pentiction native is living out every hockey player's dream, skating side by side with hockey's greatest stars as a member of the St. Louis Blues.
Rycroft, who played two season with the Shipmen - 1995-96 and 1996-97 - signed as a free agent the with Blues May 15th 2000, forgoing his final year of college at the University of Denver.
"It just all goes pretty fasy," said Rycroft this week during an off-day for the Blues. "I went to college and trained hard there. I was three years there, then got my break and signed with St. Louis out of college.
"I worked hard in Worcester(American Hockey League) in the minors last season and stayed in Worcester all summer. It's really just been five years of really hard work because college is like a boot camp."
He is coming off a great rookie professional season in Worcester last season, with 24 goals and 26 assist in 71 games.
Rycroft and a number of the Worcester Ice Cats were called up by the Blues for the play offs last season. Although he didn't see any ice time, the experience of being around the big city was invaluable and likely helped him catch on with the Blues this season.
"We watched the Colorado series. . . that was a good experience for us," said Rycroft. "Even coming in that season year of camp, it's better. You go in your first year and you are kinda star-struck seeing all the guys you have been watching on TV for the past 15 years.
"When they brought us up in the playoffs, it definitely helped because you get more comfortable with the guys. A lot of the issues here is confidence level. You are good enough to play but you have to have the poise to play with these guys and be comfortable with your games."
Rycroft recalls his first exhibition games (2000-2001 season) against Dallas was a less then memorable experience.
"I was just terrible I was too busy watching Joe Nieuwendyk and Brett Hull play," said Rycroft.
To date, Rycroft has recorded two assist.
He said he had four shots on goal in the third period of the Blues' 2-1 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday.
"I'm due to score a goal but it just hasn't happened yet," he said.
He hasn't been playing on a set line with the Blues. Head coach Joel Quenneville like to switch things up.
"The most I've played with is (Daniel) Corso and (Cory) Stillman. That would be the majority of the icetime I've got.
As a new player, he knows his time with the big club could be short.
He's staying in an apartment-like hotel rather then in a permanent dwelling.
"Guys in my position, on the bubble, stay here," said Rycroft of his living quarters, "It's obvious I got some breaks where I am right now. Scott Mellanby broke his jaw. Tyson Nash is on the injury reserve. (Sebastien) Bordeleau got picked up on waivers so all of a sudden I found myself on the team.
"If everybody gets healthy again, and stays healthy, there's not going to be a spot to play. That's the nature of the game. We'll have to see what happens."
Rycroft's rise through the ranks has been swift - but he hasn't forgotten his time in Nanaimo. The first-class hotels, travel and meals haven't made him oblivious to his past.
He views those two Clipper seasons with fond memories.
"You never ever forget your hockey past," said Rycroft. "You can remember every step of the way, all the way through.
"We had a really tight team that year (96-97). I think we would have gone a lot further if we didn't lose (Lewis) Kinvig and (Kris) Wallis before the start of the playoffs. That was like 200 points down the drain. Those Nanaimo days were great days. I loved every minute I played for the Clippers."
In his two years with Nanaimo, he recorded 49 goals and 63 assists for 112 points in 118 games.
Thanks to JinnyGirl21@look.ca for providing the article
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