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INSIDE BRAD ARVANITIS'S PRO DEBUT - AND THE MARATHON TRAVEL DAY THAT LED UP TO IT

Thursday, July 21st
INSIDE BRAD ARVANITIS'S PRO DEBUT - AND THE MARATHON TRAVEL DAY THAT LED UP TO IT

On Wednesday, the Rush announced the signing of rookie goaltender Brad Arvanitis for the 2022-23 season. If that name sounds familiar, it’s for a good reason. Arvanitis made his professional debut for Rapid City last season, and helped the Rush pick up some massive points in the midst of a playoff push. Here is a look back at his pro debut – and his epically long day.

2 P.M. EST, FRIDAY, MARCH 25, 2022

Brad Arvanitis’s phone rang. On the other end was Scott Burt, the head coach of the Rapid City Rush. It appeared that his team was going to be in need of a goaltender for the next night’s game against the Atlanta Gladiators. Burt told Arvanitis to stay by his phone and be ready to get on a flight on short notice.

Arvanitis had recently completed his senior season at Babson College, a Division III hockey program in Wellesley, Mass. He and one of his former coaches, who was acting as an advisor, had put some feelers out in the pro hockey world to see if Arvanitis could get his feet wet, so the call wasn’t an enormous surprise. The timeline, however, was.

Two hours later, the phone rang again. Rapid City needed him. Arvanitis was going to make his pro debut the next night.

Burt asked if it was possible for Arvanitis to get on a 6 p.m. flight out of Boston, but the turnaround time was too quick. So a flight was booked for 9 a.m. the next day, the morning of his first professional game.

6 A.M. EST, SATURDAY, MARCH 26, 2022

Arvanitis woke and quickly got moving, arriving at Boston Logan International Airport just after 7 a.m.

“I was just hoping to make the flight in Boston,” Arvanitis said. “The first step—checking the bag—there was a little bit of a hassle with that.”

His goalie bag, stuffed with his pads, mask and more, was slightly over the weight limit the airline had for a checked bag. That led to some tense moments at the outset of his day as Arvanitis had to head to customer service to fight for the right to check his goalie bag.

After 30 minutes of back-and-forth with the airline, with Arvanitis pleading that he needed every bit of equipment the bag contained, it was finally accepted, and Arvanitis navigated his was through TSA security. He boarded the plane and was off to Denver for his connecting flight.

9 A.M. EST

Arvanitis attempted to nap on the plane, but the pure chaos and energy of the day would not allow him to do so. The flight from Boston to Denver is four hours, 30 minutes, and after crossing two time zones, he landed at Denver International Airport at 11:30 a.m. MST.

11:30 A.M

Arvanitis got off the plane, found the gate for his flight to Rapid City and tracked down something to eat. It was during this layover that the reality started to set in.

“That’s really when it hit that okay, you’re actually going to play a game here in a mere couple of hours,” Arvanitis said.

As the nerves became more prevalent, he made a few phone calls to former teammates who had gone on to play pro hockey. The trusted voices settled him down.

“That was a big help for me,” Arvanitis said, “hearing a relaxing voice that said, ‘You can’t control anything. You’re going out there on a couple hours’ notice; just go have fun with it.’”

2:45 P.M.

Before too long, the layover was done, and Arvanitis boarded his plane to Rapid City. He had heard from injured Rush goaltender Adam Carlson earlier in the day, and when the plane landed at Rapid City Regional Airport, Carlson was there to pick him up. Arvanitis retrieved the bags he had fought so hard to check, got in Carlson’s truck and headed toward The Monument.

“We had a great time to chat a little bit about hockey and life in general,” Arvanitis said. “It was good to hear a relaxing voice with that too.”

Carlson encouraged him on the ride to relax and go do his thing. He told Arvanitis that he had one job, and a simple one at that. Just go out there and stop the puck.

4:40 P.M.

More than 12 and a half hours after waking up in Massachusetts, Arvanitis finally arrived at The Monument. He dropped his bag in the locker room, met briefly with Burt, got his physical and filled out the required medical paperwork that accompanied it.

His new teammates began to trickle in, and Arvanitis tracked down some coffee and settled into his typical pregame routine.

“My big thing is a peanut butter and jelly, so I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get that before the game, but luckily we had some,” Arvanitis said with a laugh.

Danny Battochio, Rapid City’s goalie coach and one of two men to have his jersey number retired by the team, was set to be the emergency backup goaltender that night. When he arrived and the two netminders began talking, Arvanitis realized that he had missed something important and asked Battochio if he could see the rink.

He stepped out of the locker room tunnel and gazed around the empty arena, absorbing the reality that he was less than two hours away from playing his first professional hockey game.

“It was kind of just surreal. You work so hard for everything you want. You walk out and see a new place and a new rink; it was emotional for sure,” Arvanitis said. “I was excited. I was nervous. I was feeling all of this stuff. It was definitely something I’ll cherish for a long time.”

6:26 P.M. — WARMUPS

Nearly 14 hours after he had started his day, Arvanitis led the Rush onto the ice for warmups. He stuck to the routine that he’d been using throughout his college career. He stretched, took a lap around his zone, stretched again and started to look at the opposing team to see what Atlanta would be coming at him with.

Before long he realized that, although this was pro hockey and a significant jump from where he was playing at Babson, he was not going to be overmatched.

“Guys might be bigger, stronger, older, faster, but as soon as the first couple of warmup shots came, the speed difference is not that much of a jump,” Arvanitis said.

6:59 P.M. — STARTING LINEUPS

When the Rush starting lineups are announced for home games at The Monument Ice Arena, the goaltender comes on the ice last. That was a good thing for Arvanitis, who admitted that he probably looked pretty nervous.

Eventually, the public address announcer called his name. And amid pyrotechnics and cheers, Arvanitis took the ice.

7:04 P.M. — PUCK DROP

Finally, it was time. Arvanitis was in net. Twenty minutes on the clock. Atlanta’s Kameron Kielly won the faceoff from Rapid City’s Colton Leiter, and the game was on.

Arvanitis faced his first shot on goal, a deflected bouncing puck off the stick of Mitchell Hoelscher, 41 seconds into the game. And then finally felt he could settle in.

“The first shot was the key thing. Making that easy save, it’s kind of relaxing,” Arvanitis said. “You get one, you get two and it kind of starts adding up, and you do what you’ve been doing for so long. You get into a zone and stick with it.”

And did he ever get in a zone. Arvanitis faced 19 shots in the first period. And although the Gladiators snuck one by him, a Gabe Guertler goal with 5:33 to go in the period, Arvanitis made 18 saves and his team led 2-1 after one.

8:01 P.M. — SECOND PERIOD

The second period had the least action for Arvanitis, but when recounting the experience just under a month later, he admitted that the entirety of the game basically blended together.

“There’s not much I really remember from the game, but I do remember making a lot of saves,” Arvanitis said. “I remember the fans. I try to take my looks around during the media breaks. But I remember just smiling the entire game. I saw a fight. I saw a couple of good saves. I was just laughing, smiling, having a good time.”

8:58 P.M.— THIRD PERIOD

By the time the third period rolled around, the Rush led 5-1 and were firmly in control. But the Gladiators had no interest in going quietly into the night. They came out with a fury, shooting early and often on the rookie goaltender. But it didn’t matter. Arvanitis was in a zone. And the fans had started to realize that they were watching something special. Even without the complete context of the circumstances, Rush Nation cheered louder and louder with every save.

“You’re the new guy at first, and you wonder are these guys going to like me? Are the fans going to like me?” Arvanitis said. “Then you make a couple of saves and obviously everyone cheers.”

And cheer they did. Arvanitis stopped all 20 of Atlanta’s shot attempts in the final frame. He rode the wave coming from the crowd as the seconds ticked down toward a Rapid City victory.

“Toward the end of the game, you definitely started to hear a different energy in the rink,” Arvanitis said. “Once that final buzzer hit, it kind of exploded. It was crazy. I don’t remember much of it. It was fun, having a good time. But definitely there was that energy behind it that you could feel.”

When the final horn blew, a look at the scoreboard showed a 5-1 Rush win despite the Gladiators outshooting the Rush 46-24 overall and 20-7 in the third period. In his professional debut, Brad Arvanitis made 45 saves on 46 shots.

9:36 P.M. – POSTGAME

After being mobbed by his new teammates, Arvanitis ambled off the ice and started down the tunnel. But first, Kam Milne, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, grabbed him and told him to turn around. He was going back out on the ice.

Arvanitis had been named the number one star of the game.

Milne pressed a rolled-up T-shirt into Arvanitis’s hand. He started back down the tunnel and onto the ice as his name was once again announced—to a significantly louder roar from the crowd than the one he heard for the starting lineups.

He skated onto the ice, chucked the T-shirt into the crowd and soaked in the moment.

“I was just smiling the entire time,” Arvanitis said. “Thanking the fans for their support.”

9:40 P.M. – THE LOCKER ROOM

Arvanitis walked back down the tunnel after the three stars announcement and into the locker room. He was exhausted; all of the energy had left his body. The rest of the team was inside, and it was silent. He’d seen similar viral videos, so he knew what was about to happen.

He put his glove, blocker and helmet in his stall, turned around and said, “Why’s everyone so quiet?”

Then the place erupted. Water was dumped on him, and he was grabbed from every direction in celebration.

His new teammates awarded him the hard hat given to the player of the game after each win.

“That’s something I’ll never forget,” Arvanitis said.

11 P.M. — DONE FOR THE DAY

Just over an hour after the game ended, Arvanitis left The Monument. He got back to his new room, and made a call to his parents. It was after 1 a.m. on the east coast, but they were still awake, waiting for that call. They had watched every minute of the game and were just as juiced as their son.

Arvanitis shared that moment with the parents who had supported him for his entire life, the people he says he owes it all to. They reflected on the hectic day and wild string of events that brought him to Rapid City, S.D., to professional hockey and the Rush net.

Eventually, he said good night, hung up the phone and attempted to shut it down himself. It was no easy task, with the adrenaline still surging through his body.

It wasn’t until 2 a.m. that he finally fell asleep. Factoring in the time zone difference, that was 22 hours after he had woken up back in Massachusetts. And his work for the weekend was far from done. There was another game scheduled for 4:05 p.m. the next day.

“It definitely had been a full 24-hour day,” Arvanitis said. “And then the next day, I had to get up and do it all over again. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Arvanitis went on to make five starts for the Rush over the ensuing two weeks before returning to Babson on April 7 to finish his college degree. He finished the season with a record of 3-1-1-0, a 2.80 goals against average and .922 save percentage. In his five starts, all of which occurred against playoff teams as the Rush stormed toward their first playoff berth in seven years, Rapid City earned seven of a possible 10 points. His travel day for his return to the east coast was significantly less eventful.  

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