Holmstrom enjoying steady pro career
Ben Holmstrom got some pretty straightforward instruction right before he took the opening faceoff in his NHL debut almost four years ago.
“Win it,” Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger advised Holmstrom back on March 3, 2011 when Philly took on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Colorado Springs product did just that.
Holmstrom, a graduate of the Pikes Peak Miners program, is one of the many success stories to come out of the state. He made it big in junior hockey, played in the NCAA Division I ranks and is now enjoying a worthy professional career.
Playing this season with the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Charlotte Checkers after signing as a free agent with the Carolina Hurricanes last summer, Holmstrom left home at age 16 to play three years in the United States Hockey League with the Sioux Falls Stampede from 2003-06, and then the following four skating for the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
After he played his final game for the River Hawks, Holmstrom signed a two-year contract with the Flyers.
“It happened really fast,” Holmstrom said of his transition from college to pro. “It was an unbelievable feeling being another step closer to a dream you have as a kid, but never really know if you’ll get that opportunity or not.”
At each stop after leaving home, the 27-year-old forward stayed the course.
“I don’t think I ever thought I was anything special, even when I made Sioux Falls or went to Lowell,” said Holmstrom. “I’ve always just tried to keep working at improving my game at every level and not worry about what’s going to happen. That’s easier said than done sometimes, but there’s only so much you can control.”
After his debut with Philadelphia, Holmstrom played one more game that season with the Flyers and five more in 2011-12, spending most of his time in the AHL with the Adirondack Phantoms while serving as their captain.
Still, the day of his first NHL contest is clearer now than it was on that March evening.
“I was at the rink in Glens Falls (N.Y.) getting ready for an optional skate,” remembered Holmstrom. “The coach (Joe Paterson) came in and said to myself and another guy that we were heading down to Philly and we’d be playing tonight.
“It ended up just me being called up, so they got me a car at noon, I did the ride down to Philly and arrived at the hotel just in time to put my suit on and have one of the guys pick me up and bring me to the rink (Wells Fargo Center). The whole thing was a bit of a whirlwind.
“I remember starting that game and being on the blue line for the national anthem realizing I was playing in the NHL.”
Last summer, Holmstrom signed with the Hurricanes with the hopes of getting a fresh start.
“It was something I did just looking to get a chance in training camp with a new coach (Bill Peters) and general manager (Ron Francis) and make an impression with a new organization,” he said.
And while he hasn’t suited up for Carolina yet, Holmstrom is still working towards that goal.
“The best way for me to get another shot in the NHL is to be good at my game in the AHL and just be prepared when the opportunity comes,” Holmstrom said.
“At this point, I don’t know what the future holds for me. I want to continue playing as long as possible and I’m going to continue to work towards the NHL.
“I don’t think that’s out of reach by any means.”
– Matt Mackinder