WASHINGTON, D.C. – There was a time when Jay Beagle needed a change of scenery.
It might seem difficult to imagine for a player that’s been a part of the Washington Capitals organization since 2007, but this goes back to his days in college at the University of Alaska-Anchorage.
Beagle was looking for an opportunity to play at the next level, and had heard through the grapevine that there might be an opportunity for him with the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads. Sure enough, head coach Derek Laxdal came calling.
“I was in University and I think it was an old teammate or something like that was playing in Boise, and I guess they were looking for a centerman,” Beagle told ECHL.com at the Capitals practice facility.
“They were asking around, and the head coach ended up calling me and said he heard that I’d wanted to leave school. I said that yeah, I was looking for a change and I wanted to play at the next level. He said to drive down and I’d be in on a PTO and have a little tryout during the season and we’d see how it goes.”
Beagle played in eight regular-season games for the Steelheads towards the end of the 2006-07 season, tallying two goals and eight assists. Although his numbers during the team’s run to the championship didn’t quite match up, it was during that time where his career would change for the better.
“I got really fortunate that they ended up winning the Kelly Cup and I ended up playing in the playoffs,” he said. “That’s what gave me the exposure to get looked at by the Capitals. One of their scouts, Steve Richmond, came to watch me play there.”
The following year, Beagle was given an opportunity to win a job with the team’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Hershey Bears, and came into camp as determined as ever to show Richmond and Washington that they weren’t wrong for taking a chance on him.
“Getting a tryout with the Capitals from that, it was all a dream come true and I wasn’t going to let that slip,” he said. “I trained so hard that summer, and came into development camp I think only three weeks after winning that (Kelly) Cup. I was already sort of in mid-season form, and was in great shape. I came in knowing that was my chance, and I was going to give it everything I had.”
But it was Beagle’s experience of being on a championship-winning team in his first, albeit abbreviated season in professional hockey has served as a foundation for him ever since.
“It was huge, it was a huge confidence booster,” he said. “And just to see what it takes to win and to be able to be on a such a good team with a bunch of guys who were older and could show you the way of professional hockey and the way you’ve got to play. I was fortunate to go to Hershey and win two (Calder) Cups there, so it was all pretty special.”
Beagle debuted for the Capitals during the 2008-09 season; he established himself as an National Hockey League regular during the 2010-11 campaign and has played at the game’s highest level ever since. His next game will be his 275th in the NHL.
“I try not to forget my roots and what it took to get here,” he said. “I count every day as a blessing; I’m fortunate to be here and to play a game that I love for a living. God has put me here for a reason, so it’s pretty special and I don’t want to take that for granted.”