Chase Balisy’s hockey career has taken him many places, most recently to the NHL, where he made his debut on Oct. 28 for the Florida Panthers.
One of the Orange County native’s first stops was with the Anaheim Jr. Ducks, where he played youth hockey for coach Rob Dobson.
“My favorite memories from that time are all the coaches and people you meet,” Balisy said. “Going to the rink in shorts and sandals was pretty cool, too.”
Balisy played hockey in Southern California until he was 10 before his family moved to Toronto. He played his U17 and U18 seasons for the prestigious U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., then moved cross-state to Kalamazoo to play four seasons for Western Michigan University.
In between, the Nashville Predators made him a sixth-round pick (170th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
In college, the center was a model of consistency, scoring between 25 and 37 points every season, handling face-offs, playing in every situation and finishing well into plus territory.
Balisy prides himself on using his head as well as his hands.
“I have to play smart, that’s kind of been my game,” he said. “I don’t make too many mistakes.”
He moved on to the American Hockey League after he graduated, and eventually found a home in Florida’s organization. His AHL career has tracked his college one – consistent, with 44-, 26- and 45-point campaigns to his credit.
In his fourth pro season at age 25, Balisy wasn’t sure if the call from the League would ever come.
“You’re always kind of surprised and obviously pretty excited,” he said. “You never know when it’s going to happen. I was lucky enough to have it happen.
“Growing up and always wanting to play in the NHL and being able to fulfill that dream was the coolest thing.”
After all of his travels, Balisy has returned to his roots the past couple of summers to train.
“There is not really a better spot to spend summer than California,” Balisy said.
-- Chris Bayee