Lively native Andrew Desjardins has defied the odds, carving out an NHL career that has seen the local product suit up in more than 400 games (to date) in the top hockey league in the world, all while capturing a Stanley Cup ring as a member of the 2014-2015 Chicago Blackhawks.
Now 31 years of age, Desjardins was the third last player selected in the 2002 OHL draft (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, 296th overall). The 6-1 winger would register 48 goals over four years in the Soo.
Following stops in Laredo (CHL), Phoenix (ECHL) and Worcester (AHL), Desjardins would eventually earn a contract with the San Jose Sharks, calling California home for five seasons before his trade to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Given the road he has travelled, the former Rayside-Balfour Jr. AAA Sabrecat doesn't feel sorry for himself now that his hockey dream sees Desjardins and his family putting down roots in Mannheim, Germany.
"Having the opportunity to continue on in a more unique place, you realize there's a lot more out there," he said. "It's great to dive into another culture and have those personal experiences, for myself and my family."
"My kids are going to a German school and get to experience something that most people are not able to. It's a unique and awesome thing, to have hockey bring you along this journey."
This show of appreciation falls well in line with the Desjardins persona, a young man who survived on a mantra of simply out-working teammates that were vying for his spot on a team, never taking any of it for granted.
In 31 games with the Mannheim Eagles, Desjardins would register 13 goals and 13 assists, sliding into a role that was more similar to his top-six placement with the Worcester Sharks (AHL) than the third or fourth line duties he would generally draw in the NHL.
"Over there, I'm relied on a little bit more as an offensive player," he said. "But that offence isn't created by going down, putting it through three guys' legs and going top corner. All of that offence is from hard work and battling, the same kind of offence that I would strive to do while playing in North America.
"There may have been more opportunities with power play time, special teams, being higher in the lineup, more minutes. That stuff all comes into play, but my mentality is still the same."
There was much to the 2017-2018 campaign that was of an eye-opening nature to the Desjardins clan, including the mixed allegiance that would come about as his new countrymen worked their way right into the gold medal encounter of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea.
"It was pretty amazing," said Desjardins. "We had six of seven guys on the Olympic team. As much as we are obviously cheering for our own country, these guys are still our teammates and you want them to be successful. It was pretty neat seeing some of the big teams out and Germany was still going strong. We got to rally behind them a little bit."