It took Coquitlam's Ben Street eight years to score his first NHL goal, then less than a week to double his production.
The 31-year-old Anaheim Ducks forward scored last Sunday against the St. Louis Blues, just a few days after he lit the red lantern for the first time on Oct. 10 when he scored a game-tying goal in the second period against the Arizona Coyotes.
Street picked up a stretch pass just outside the Coyotes’ blue line, then wired a wrist shot from the faceoff circle that beat goalie Antti Raanta over his right shoulder.
After eight seasons shuttling between various NHL teams and minor league outposts like Wilkes-Barre, Penn., Abbotsford, Cleveland, San Antonio and Grand Rapids, Mich., Street said it was a relief to finally get the goal-scoring monkey off his back.
“It was more than a normal goal in the NHL,” said Street, who’s milestone breakthrough came in his 39th NHL game. “It’s so nice that’s no longer a thing.”
Street, who played minor hockey at Burnaby Winter Club, junior with the BC Hockey League's Salmon Arm Silverbacks, then four seasons with the University of Wisconsin Badgers, was never drafted into the NHL. Instead, he signed with Wilkes-Barre where he was named the ECHL’s rookie of the year in his first season as a pro in 2010.
From there, Street got brief tastes of big league life with the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings before he signed a one-year, $750,000 contract with the Ducks last summer. He said with question marks around the health of some of the team’s established forwards like Ryan Kesler, Anaheim seemed like a good fit, maybe even an opportunity to settle in.
“That’s what I was looking most for,” Street said.
Especially now that he’s got a wife and young child. Street said being able to provide for them comes to the fore.
“When I started, I was single, and now you have people depending on you,” he said.
While many players move on with their lives if they haven’t attained their NHL dream by the time they’re 30, Street said his competitive nature and belief in his own ability have kept him going.
“I felt like I wanted to compete at the highest level,” he said. “I felt like I was always getting close.”
Now that he’s there, and his presence has been acknowledged with a goal in the stats line of an NHL game, Street said he wants to enjoy the experience for as long as he can. The travel arrangements in charter planes as opposed to commercial flights and bus trips that are the hallmark of minor league hockey are too nice to give up.
“It gives you perspective when you’ve played in a few different spots,” he said. “You appreciate those things a lot more.”
To stay there, Street said he’s relying on his versatility and ability to adapt to whatever role his coaches need him to fill, a survival tactic he’s learned from working with so many coaches through his career.
“When you’ve played as long as I have, you can figure out the best way that works for you,” Street said. “My learning process has been to learn all those nuances of each position and how to succeed.”
But Street said he’s careful not to let himself get too comfortable, even as he closes to within 892 goals of Wayne Gretzky’s all-time scoring record.
“I try to take it game by game, day by day,” he said. “Anytime you start getting comfortable, that’s when you can start packing your stuff up.”