Patrick Bordeleau has been living a childhood dream.
After spending five seasons in the minor leagues, the Montreal, Quebec native can finally say he has played in the National Hockey League.
Making his debut in the Avalanche’s season opener at the Minnesota Wild – the team that drafted him – Bordeleau, 26, became an official player at 2:07 of the game, right after Colorado scored to take a 1-0 lead.
His first shift didn’t last long – only 21 seconds – as linemate Cody McLeod stopped play after getting in a fight, but Bordeleau said that those few seconds is what he will remember the most about his first game.
“It was an unbelievable feeling,” he said two days later at the Avalanche practice facility, still with a big grin on his face. “You can’t ask for more than that when you’re a hockey player. To play in the NHL, that is something you dream about when you are a little boy.”
The Wild selected him with a fourth round pick (114th overall) during the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, which made Bordeleau playing in the season opening game against them that much more special.
“I’m going to remember that I was drafted by [Minnesota] and I played my first game against them,” he said.
At the time of his selection, he had just completed his first year with Val-d’Or of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He spent three more seasons in the QMJHL before entering the professional ranks.
In the minor leagues, he bounced around between five ECHL teams and four AHL teams over the course of two seasons before landing in Lake Erie for the entire 2009-10 campaign.
In 2010, Bordeleau was invited to Avalanche training camp on an AHL contract, and despite being one of the first players to be cut, Colorado saw enough from him during his time at camp and at Lake Erie that year to sign him as a free agent the following offseason.
In 29 games with Lake Erie this season, the 6-foot-6, 225-pound forward only had seven points, but he was the enforcer of the team with 91 penalty minutes and was called up for Colorado’s training camp in the middle of January.
Over the first four days of this season’s camp, he did enough to impress the coaches and was named to Colorado’s 23-man roster for the start of the season.
“He’s a big guy, but the thing I like about Bordy is that he can play,” said Colorado head coach Joe Sacco. “I can put him in situations where he just won’t be on the bench. He’s a physical force for us. He’s here for a reason and he is another guy that will make us harder to play against.”
When he was first told that he had made the team, Bordeleau said he had no emotion, but the accomplishment eventually sunk in.
“I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know how to feel,” Bordeleau said. “When I sat down at the hotel, it hit me and it is just a dream come true.”
The big body winger was a perfect fit for an already bruising fourth line for opening night as him, center Mark Olver and McLeod already had experience playing with one another previously. Bordeleau had played with Olver at Lake Erie for three seasons, while him and McLeod saw a lot of ice time together during previous Colorado training camps.
Bordeleau said he wasn’t nervous prior to his first game, but it did finally hit him that he was playing in the NHL after his first shift.
“After my first shift when I went to the bench, the boys were congratulating me,” he said. “After the game, the boys were like, ‘Congrats,’ and I think that is when it soaked in that I was an NHL player.”
He also almost got his first NHL point in the game as well. With Colorado trailing 3-1 in the third, Bordeleau picked up the puck off a faceoff and threw it to the point for Greg Zanon, who fired it to the net where McLeod scored on the rebound.
The arena announced that Bordeleau assisted on the goal, but it was later determined that Olver had tipped Zanon’s shot after he had touched it.
While he didn’t get the point, his presence in the game was still felt.
“I thought Bordy, for his first NHL game, played really well,” McLeod said. “A big body out there. It definitely changes how other teams look at our lineup when you get a big guy out there.”
Bordeleau said that he’ll get the assist back, but for the time being he is glad for the opportunity to play for the Avalanche organization and wants to do anything he can to help the team.
“When you get drafted you always think that it will work out, but sometimes you have to take a longer road,” Bordeleau said. “I did and I’m pretty glad that I ended up here.”
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