Bradley Thiessen received congratulations in a surprising way after helping the Pittsburgh Penguins double up the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 on Feb. 26.
“I got shaving cream pie in the face from Kris Letang,” said Thiessen, a BCHL alumni, whose career started with the Penticton Panthers/Vees, and also had stops in Prince George and Merritt. “It was after the game and the coach was talking and he came up behind me. They got me good on that one.”
The Aldergrove resident, who has spent the last three seasons with the American Hockey League’s Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, said the experience was awesome as he made 21 saves.
“It was something that you always work towards. That’s the goal is to be able to play in the NHL and be able to get there and play games,” said Thiessen, who is 72-37-0-4 with 13 shutouts in the AHL. “Being able to contribute to winning for the team was a lot of fun.”
Thiessen liked that his NHL debut against the Blue Jackets was in the afternoon. It didn’t allow him the time to sit around and worry about it or think about it all day. He also had his family and fiancé in attendance for support.
“Skating on the ice and hearing the national anthem and all the fans and what not kind of hits you,” said Thiessen, who played three years at Northeastern University. “It was pretty cool just to be able to be a part of.”
Thiessen admitted to feeling nervous, especially because of who he had wanting to make him look bad.
“It’s the NHL and you have Rick Nash coming down on you and other guys like that, it’s definitely a little nerve-wracking,” he said.
Eventually he felt comfortable and that he belongs in the NHL. Adding to that feeling was playing with the Penguins young studs like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Letang and Jordan Staal.
“You get a lot of good practice with those guys,” he said.
As for being around Crosby and Malkin, Thiessen said the best way to describe them is that they are just regular guys. Great teammates who care about the team and fun to be around.
“Having a front row seat from the bench, on the ice and in practice was a great experience,” he added. “They are both extremely talented. There would be times during games one of them would do something and you just say, ‘Wow’ because there are not many players who can do some of the things that they do.”
At season’s end, Thiessen’s future has become uncertain after the recent signing of Tomas Vokoun, acquired from the Washington Capitals to be Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup.
“I have to talk to my agent and see what the options are and what direction Pittsburgh is heading,” said Thiessen, a restricted free agent. “Vokoun and Fleury are pretty established goalies. Looks like they are set there.”
But Thiessen believes he is ready to be a backup. Getting wins under his belt gave him the confidence to believe.
“It would be nice to have the opportunity where I can fight for a spot to play in the NHL,” said Thiessen, whose favourite goalie was Felix Potvin growing up and more recently is Fleury.