Travis Konecny laced his skates up as he always does. He threw his jersey and shoulders over his head the same way he has since he was little. And he grabbed his stick and headed through the tunnel in the same, typical manner.
Yet, this wasn’t just another game. This was his first NHL game, his first time wearing the Flyers orange and black in a meaningful contest and the first time in maybe forever that he was starstruck.
This was how Travis Konecny’s first week as an NHL player went.
It was late Sunday back on Oct. 9 when he and fellow rookie Ivan Provorov received a message from general manager Ron Hextall. They’ve seen how this story unfolds before. Just a year ago, they had the same meeting with Hextall, who had told them they would be sent back to juniors for another season.
This just felt different, though. They hadn’t made it this far last year and their productive training camp had everyone convinced that it would serve as a golden ticket onto the roster. Turns out, that’s exactly what it was as Hextall met the two rookies, informing them that they had made the opening night lineup.
Three days after learning of his status, Konecny set out for Hollywood that Wednesday for their season opener with the Los Angeles Kings.
Looking back on it, Konecny admits he may have looked like a little kid in a candy shop — or in this sense, a rookie on his first road trip.
“The nice seats on those planes are a little different than riding in passenger planes,” Konecny said with a grin.
“For most of these guys, it’s just a plane ride for them, but for the first one for me, heading out on a road trip to L.A., spending a couple of games. It’s awesome.”
That first shift against the Kings saw some butterflies fluttering inside Konecny, but he says that getting a shot on net in his first shift took away all the nerves. He picked up a pair of assists in his first career. The next night in Arizona, he grabbed another assist. Eventually, he found himself on a three-game point streak with another helper in Chicago.
Speaking of that game with the Blackhawks, Konecny was a bit in awe.
“Every time I saw myself on the ice, I waited to see who was coming out and they put [Patrick] Kane out,” Konecny said.
He was on the ice nearly every shift against the reigning Hart Trophy winner.
“It’s definitely something I have to stop looking at and being so in shock on who I’m playing against and focus on taking them on,” Konecny said.
Even if he was starstruck, you wouldn’t have noticed it. After five games, Konecny finds himself as a point-per-game player with five points.
In addition to the craziness on ice, away from the rink hasn’t been any different. He’s heard from everyone he’s ever encountered, from old teachers to childhood friends to trainers and everyone in between.
“It kind of brings me back to some old friends,” Konecny said. “It’s been nice to hear from family and see their excitement.”
Through the whole process, from training camp through the first week, Konecny has been constantly keeping in touch with his parents. His father often asks him who he’s playing with and how the latest practice went.
Almost all of his family — besides his brother who’s been tied up with exams — has come down to see him play. His parents were in attendance for the home opener at the Wells Fargo Center and spent the next few days hanging out with him around the area.
In that regard, it was nice to head back to the East Coast where his hometown of London, Ontario, is about a three-hour flight. However, he couldn’t have asked for a more perfectly timed West Coast road trip to get him acclimated to the league.
“It was awesome going on that road trip right off the bat and getting to know the guys and the team,” Konecny said. “We had the day off we got to go to a football game, it was awesome getting to know the guys. It’s really important to know who you’re working with every day and who you’re battling with on the ice.”
It’s been a week to remember to say the least for the 19-year-old.
Turns out, the one time he felt out of place wasn’t going against some of the best players in the league, but rather sitting first class on a private plane headed to Los Angeles with an ear-to-ear grin.
That’s when it hit him: He was about to embark on his NHL career.