KAMLOOPS — 2017 has been a magical year for Joe Hicketts.
He was part of a Calder Cup championship team with the Grand Rapids Griffins, a team that benefitted from a rare playoff absence by the Detroit Red Wings — the first time since 1990.
"It didn't seem to matter who was playing with who or who got called up to Detroit, we seemed to gel really well, and that's a credit to the leadership group that we had there in Grand Rapids," said Hicketts.
"Obviously it sucked to see Detroit lose that [25-year] playoff streak, but what came with that was we got some guys back for our playoff run, and we were lucky enough to run into some teams that had NHL clubs in the postseason."
Hicketts says this year presents a different group, like every year. But the Griffins, he notes, should be aiming just as high.
"We had a lot of guys more, whether it was signings at free agency, or we had one guy picked up in the expansion draft by the Golden Knights. So I'm expecting a different team, but I think our mindset has to stay the same," said Hicketts. "We came into last year with the mentality that we were going to win a championship."
Hicketts is preparing to climb that championship mountain again. He's been skating with the Blazers during their training camp. He leaves tomorrow for Detroit's camp on Saturday.
"The first step right now is get ready for training camp. Once training camp comes, you have to go in with a mindset that you're going to make an NHL roster on opening day. Whatever happens from there is something that you have to take it as it goes. But for now, I'm going into training camp with the mindset that I'm not going to get sent down."
Whatever Detroit's coaching staff has in mind for Hickett's future, he is readying himself for that NHL opportunity.
"Everything's kind of a learning process," he said. "You've got to establish yourself at the junior level to get a pro shot, and now that I'm at the pro level you've got to establish yourself in the American Hockey League. You do everything you can every day to ready yourself for your one chance because that night be the only chance you get."
"Right now, I'm hoping I get that chance. You have to be ready to take it and run with it."
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