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Delia’s wild ride continues with a victory in NHL debut

 

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 13: Collin Delia #60 of the Chicago Blackhawks poses for his official headshot for the 2017-2018 season on September 13, 2017 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)

Very few players experience an NHL debut like the one Collin Delia did on March 29 for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Let this timeline of events sink in:

• Recently called up from Chicago’s American Hockey League affiliate in Rockford, Delia wasn’t scheduled to play and got the start for the Blackhawks when veteran Anton Forsberg, a backup to the injured Corey Crawford, suffered an injury during his off-ice warmups.

• That game happened to the 1,000th of Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook’s NHL career.

• Delia faced off against another California product, Eric Comrie (Newport Beach), in Winnipeg’s net. The start was just the fourth in the NHL of Comrie’s career and it marked the first time two California goaltenders have faced each other in the NHL.

• Delia had to leave the game 5:59 into the third period because of cramps, forcing emergency goalie Scott Foster – an accountant by day – to play the final 14 minutes of a 6-2 Chicago victory over the Jets. Foster’s story took on a life of its own.

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“History was made that night for multiple reasons, but it was cool to be a part of that whole sequence of events,” Delia said. “People said to me, ‘Oh, it must stink you’re overshadowed in your first start.’ I was just happy to have the opportunity in the first place to play in an NHL game.

“The way it finished was kind of unfortunate, not what I had envisioned at all. Just to be there in that moment was pretty special.”

When it was all said and done, Delia had his first NHL start, first NHL victory (he made 25 of 27 saves), and he got it against a familiar face.

“It’s pretty amazing to play against Comrie,” said Delia, who also started the next night in Colorado. “We played against each other growing up. It’s kind of funny it came together then and there.”

It was the second time in two months he’d played against Comrie. They had faced off in an AHL game in February. Ironically enough, Delia learned of his NHL call-up after an AHL victory in Winnipeg on March 26. He was starting to eat his postgame meal when Rockford GM Mark Bernard called him and asked him to meet in the lobby in two minutes.

“He said, ‘It looks like you’re going up,’” Delia recalled. “I definitely wasn’t expecting that.”

The NHL cameo came in a whirlwind year for the Rancho Cucamonga native.

Delia, who was a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian Award as a junior at Merrimack College last season, signed with Chicago after its summer prospects camp.

He started the season shuttling between the Indy Fuel of the ECHL and Rockford. As injuries hit the Hawks in net, he established himself in Rockford and had a 17-6-2 record with a .904 save percentage and 2.64 goals-against average as of mid-April.

The movement doesn’t faze him at this point. He led a nomad’s existence in youth hockey in California, playing for the Anaheim Jr. Ducks, California Stars, California Wave, OC Hockey Club, California Titans and Yorba Linda Blackhawks.

He played two junior seasons for Amarillo of the North American Hockey League, going a combined 33-9-2 during the regular season and catching the eye of Merrimack. His college record hovered around .500, but he had two seasons with a save percentage of better than .925 and a GAA of 2.15 or lower.

Regardless of circumstances, Delia gave his teams a chance to win. That was something the Blackhawks discovered on that wild night of March 29.

“It’s a nice pat on the back and validation that your work is being noticed, and the fact you can be rewarded with a couple of starts is pretty amazing,” he said.

“If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that I would have gotten a couple of games in the NHL, I probably would have called you a liar. It wasn’t on my radar. It was a goal of mine, something I thought I could achieve if I kept working toward it, but I didn’t think it would come so soon.”

— Chris Bayee

(April 11, 2018)