By: Topher Scott
Cole Bardreau just played in his first NHL game this past weekend for the New York Islanders. I coached Barsy for four years at Cornell…and I have to say I got a little choked up when I saw the news. In this post, I’ll explain why.
The circumstances of the call up are pretty crazy. Barsy was at a pregame meal for Bridgeport, NYI’s AHL team, when he got the call that he needed to be on a plane immediately for a flight to Columbus. For a game that the big club was playing THAT NIGHT.
He hopped in a car, got his stuff, got to the airport, got on a flight…and arrived at Nationwide Arena in Columbus at 5:30 for their 7:00 game. Talk about an experience getting ready for your first game! And you gotta love the lap…
Well Cole, you did just fly in… could use an extra lap or two 😉
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) October 19, 2019
As crazy as the circumstances were surrounding his first game, the journey to the NHL for Barsy is even crazier. It’s a journey full of ups and downs…and a kid that just wouldn’t quit or stay down. It’s a story that all kids should know because it highlights some of the most important qualities we can have as people…a positive attitude and an unwavering resiliency.
Barsy came to us at Cornell from the US National Team Development program. At the program, he was pegged as a 3rd line center…but for us we saw more and wanted him to contribute more offensively. That happens at the program…where there are so many talented players and only enough offensive roles for some.
So his first year with us he struggled a bit to get his offensive confidence back after having played a different role for two years with the NTDP. But you could see the potential he had. And when he came back for his sophomore year, he was firing on all cylinders. The offensive confidence was back and he was playing awesome. So much so, that he made the USA World Junior Team that eventually won the Gold Medal.
Barsy was an assistant captain with the team and centered the self-proclaimed “Grind Line” who shut down the other team’s top players. I remember watching the semi-final game against Canada, while I was in Canada recruiting, and the commentators speaking so glowingly of how that line shutdown Canada’s top players. There’s Barsy again, selflessly accepting a role and doing it to the best of his abilities.
But in coming back to Cornell from World Juniors, this time Barsy’s confidence was through the roof. He was playing so well for us, just won a WORLD JUNIOR GOLD MEDAL, and was really turning the corner into becoming a top player in our league.
In his first weekend back, he went to retrieve a puck near the wall and was hit from behind into the boards. It was a pretty nasty hit to say the least. Barsy was stunned, but showed no real alarming symptoms and played the rest of the game.
Little did we know, the next morning he couldn’t move his neck. So he went to see the doctors and it turned out he had actually fractured two vertebra in his neck. There was talk of him never playing hockey again and how close he actually was to being paralyzed. It was a scary time for a kid so passionate about hockey, to say the least.
But just as Barsy had always done, he persevered, rehabbed, and was back at it the following year after being in a neck brace for what seemed like forever (I wish I had a picture to show).
His final year at Cornell, Barsy took it to another level. I remember a conversation with him and just understanding how badly he wanted to be great and for our team to win. In the second half of the year he asked to do extra work EVERY DAY. I’m talking EVERY DAY the two of us were out on the ice working on his game and it absolutely took off. So much so that after the season he was rewarded a two-way contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.
And just like he always does, Barsy went in and made a great impression. As a 5’10” center, he wowed people with his tenacity and grit. He was lauded for his play and just missed making the big club. I remember reading articles and seeing quotes from the Flyers’ brass about how close he was and it sounded like he was going to be the next man up. He was even awarded as an Assistant Captain in his second year with the Phantoms in the AHL.
But as he got that close, more injuries rattled his dream, including a hand infection from a fight that required multiple surgeries. It was like a gut-punch to him and all of us that were rooting so hard for him to get his shot. The next few years he was only able to play in about half his team’s games. We knew how bad he wanted it and how hard he worked to get there. It sucked. But it’s an unfortunate part of the game.
So for four years it was that roller coaster with the Flyers organization. So many ups and downs…and this summer he signed with the Islanders.
And four games in, over this past weekend…he finally got the call. After all the injuries and setbacks…and at 26 years old…the kid with the most energy I’ve ever seen realized his childhood dream. The same kid who years ago was told he may never play hockey again.
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) October 20, 2019
I was speechless. When I texted him that night, I literally told him I didn’t know what to say but I was so proud of him. As were so many others.
It’s a story of perseverance and a can-do attitude. It’s a story of hard work and an unwavering passion for the game. And it’s a story that is still being written because I have a strange feeling that he’s going to make an impression and they’re not going to want to send him back down.
So congrats to another Big Red player for reaching the pinnacle and achieving their childhood dream. It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving player…as he showed all of us how the power of positivity and perseverance can take you to places beyond the imaginable. Congrats Barsy!