BUFFALO – Tyler Ennis still remembers every little detail of Nov. 14, 2009, the day the slick Sabres winger made his NHL debut.
When Portland Pirates coach Kevin Dineen told Ennis the Sabres could recall him for a game in Philadelphia that night, the youngster left the rink – “It was like a 30-minute drive,” he said – and went home.
He needed to eat, so he “picked up a quick Subway sandwich.”
Ennis then packed. Dineen called and said the Sabres needed him.
“Rushed to the airport and got there just in time,” Ennis said this morning inside the First Niagara Center.
Ennis scored his first NHL goal that night in a 3-2 win against the Flyers.
“Time has flown,” he said about the last five years. “I remember exactly getting called up in Portland, the excitement and the nervousness of playing my first game. Being able to score my first game was pretty crazy, and just how fast time has flown by. It seems like just yesterday I was getting that call.”
The 25-year-old still has that puck mounted with the game sheet in his bedroom.
Back then, Ennis was just another young prospect in the Sabres’ arsenal. They returned him to Portland following the game, keeping him there until March. The Sabres won the Northeast Division as he developed with their old AHL affiliate.
“I’m really happy I spent time down there,” Ennis said. “It really helped mold players, and I think it’s really important a lot of players spend time down there.”
But Ennis’ time was limited. He only played 69 AHL games, scoring 23 goals, 65 points and winning top rookie honors. By the end of the season, he was the Sabres’ leading playoff scorer.
Ennis, the Sabres’ leading goal scorer this season, has been an NHL mainstay ever since, living a dream.
“Back then, you just don’t know what to expect in the NHL,” he said. “It’s your dream to play here. Now I’ve been here for five years. It’s everything it’s made out to be as a kid. We got treated very well. I’m excited every day to be able to play in the NHL.
“Obviously, it’s been frustrating the last couple years. When I first got here, we (made the) playoffs two years in a row. Now we’re in a rebuilding phase. Can’t wait to get back to the playoffs.”
Still, the likable Ennis isn’t going to pout about losing.
“You got to take a look around and realize how lucky you are,” he said. “When things are going bad up here, we had cancer kids come in, some terminally ill kids come in, just to kind of put things in perspective, we’re really lucky where we are.
“The losses are tough, but there are a lot more difficult things in the world. We’re very lucky. We’ll turn this ship around here. But playing in the NHL is a very special thing.”