NEW YORK – As Jay Beagle enters into what he hopes is another lengthy chase of the Stanley Cup, he couldn’t help but think back to his pursuit of the Kelly Cup during his first professional season.
After two years playing college hockey at The University of Alaska-Anchorage, Beagle latched on with the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads at the end of the 2006-07 season. In a one-on-one interview prior to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden, Beagle sat down with ECHL.com and looked back at his brief stay in Boise, and how it’s benefited him in his future chases of the Calder Cup and Stanley Cup.
Mike Ashmore, ECHL.com: So, let’s start at the beginning. How did it all come about that you ended up signing with Idaho?
Jay Beagle: "My old junior coach knew Derek Laxdal, and a guy on my team as well in Anchorage. He also was there at the time, and the coach had asked him about me. They knew that I was looking to move on, so I talked with Laxdal a couple times, and they wanted me to come down and play a few games, be with the team and see how it goes. That’s what happened."
ECHL.com: Sticking with the regular season first, your numbers there were pretty good in a short amount of time (2-8-10 in eight games). Did you almost feel like you had to perform like that to prove yourself in that small of a sample size?
Beagle: "Yeah, definitely. I think it was just one of those things where I wanted to keep playing hockey, and I was undrafted. I didn’t have an agent at the time either, so it was kind of the next step to go play pro and see if I could make a run at trying to play in the NHL. That basically was the goal. I was lucky enough that Idaho gave me a shot to go play with them, and obviously I had a blast there. I had a great time and it was a great city. I ended up winning the Kelly Cup, which was an unbelievable experience. It was just an awesome time there."
ECHL.com: So what was it like to only play that handful of games in the regular season and jump right into the playoffs like that only a few weeks removed from playing in college?
Beagle: "It was incredible. I didn’t even really know the standings at the time when I was trying to go play in the (ECHL). I didn’t know, and it just happened that Derek Laxdal had said he wanted me to come down. It was a huge learning experience coming out of college and just being with some great older players; Marty Flichel was there. I learned so much from it, I learned what it takes to win. I wouldn’t trade it away for anything."
ECHL.com: During that stay in Idaho, did you ever let yourself think that those NHL dreams would come true?
Beagle: "No. Well, I shouldn’t say no. It was a dream. It was my dream, just like it is everyone’s who plays hockey. But at the time, I was just trying to focus on those playoffs and trying to show what I could do. I knew scouts would be watching the games when we got into the semifinals and then the finals. I knew teams would be watching, and it was my chance, basically. That was my shot to try and show what I could do and to try to get to the next level."
ECHL.com: I know you’ve played for the Calder Cup as well, but specifically with the Kelly Cup and especially with it being your first pro playoff experience, how much did that help prepare you for getting to play for the Stanley Cup like you are now?
Beagle: "It taught me a lot. Obviously, the travel is a lot harder. But just with everything, it built me into the player that I am today.
All those experiences and all those tough bus trips and those big games, it taught me how to play in big games. At the time, that was my Stanley Cup and we were playing hard for it. It just teaches you how to play in those big games."