Devon Levi and the ordinary excitement of making an NHL debut
Much is expected of the 21-year-old as he begins his Sabres career, but his first step towards being the potential No. 1 for a long time is just like any other game.
Any player that makes their NHL debut goes through the gauntlet of emotions. Excitement, nervousness, anxiousness…if it makes you feel like jumping out of your skin, that’s what it’s like. It’s a brain going at light speed trying to sort through everything that’s to come.
Goalies are a different kind of hockey player though. They’re famous (maybe infamous?) for their quirks and superstitions and just kind of being out there. And really, to want to get in front of pucks blasted at 100 miles an hour you have to be wired differently.
When it comes to Devon Levi, he’s a goalie but he’s a classic bright-eyed, excited 21-year-old whose professional hockey world is about to open up wide. He’s thoughtful, he’s humble yet confident, and he cannot wait to play against the New York Rangers on Friday night in Buffalo.
“I’ve been dreaming of this moment my whole life, so for it to finally be here, it’s a big deal,” Levi said Thursday. “I’m really excited.”
Think of how cool it is to say you’re fulfilling a dream. Also think of what it’s like to have your stomach feeling like it’s doing cartwheels in a cement truck. Spinning, spinning ever onward until you almost puke.
Levi is a cool customer talking about this and part of the reason for that is because he has a pregame routine and a way to meditate on what’s to come and the studying he’s done to prepare for the Rangers. Going from college to the NHL has its challenges and adjustments, but preparation does not.
“Nothing’s changed, just moving up levels. It’s still the game of hockey,” Levi said. “I still know what I have to do to be successful, so it’s just sticking to my bread and butter, to my base, and just performing it like I always do.”
Hearing him speak about that and going back and re-reading it as well, it’s fascinating that the ultimate takeaway from such a momentous occasion, one for Levi that also includes the weight of a fan base beyond hopeful he’s the next in a line of great Sabres goaltenders, is that it’s just another game. Maybe that’s why he’s now a professional hockey player and the rest of us are watching and talking about it.
Surely it can’t be like that for other goalies. An NHL debut is a big freakin’ deal after all. The gamut of feelings has to be run before hitting the ice, right? Levi’s zen-like approach to everything has to be particular. There’s no way it was like this for other goalies when they made their NHL debut, right?
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