When Bowen Byram arrived at the Avs team locker room at Staples Center on Thursday morning, perhaps it felt like just another day of morning skate preparation. He didn’t immediately notice the whiteboard in the dressing room, which always has the team’s lineup written on it ahead of the night’s matchup. He hadn’t immediately noticed that his name was on it.
“It’s kinda funny, EJ (Erik Johnson) told me it was on the board there. I didn’t know if he was kidding or not,” Byram said just a few hours before he’s set to make his NHL debut.
“When I realized I was going,” he said, briefly pausing between his smiles. “…just really exciting. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been dreaming of this for a long time.”
It’s a moment every hockey player dreams about growing up. Very few make it this far. For Bowen Byram, he’s arrived at this moment, and it’s been a long time coming.
His arrival on the NHL scene has been much anticipated, for himself and fans alike. When he took the ice for the first time with his new Avalanche teammates this past Saturday, the question wasn’t a matter of if Byram would make his NHL debut, but when — and how soon — he’d take to the NHL ice.
“Little surprised,” he admitted when he found out he got the call on Thursday morning. “But I was hoping it was coming soon, so I’m excited for tonight.”
Head coach Jared Bednar said the conversation with Byram was “simple” when he told him he’d be going in.
“Just go be yourselves…go play your game,” Bednar said. “Go do all the things that you do that made you successful to this point.
“I want him to be the best version of himself that he can be,” Bednar added.
Between these conversations with his head coach, and his teammates wishing him luck, one might imagine it was quite a whirlwind experience. Byram wouldn’t admit if he was nervous or had any butterflies when he found out — just, surprise. And in between all of this, he found time to take a moment to share that excitement with one of his biggest supporters.
“I did text my dad, and that was the first and only text so far,” Byram said. “My dad, he means a lot to me. He’s been in this position before. I know he’ll be really excited for me, so I just wanted to get the word to him.”
Byram’s dad, Shawn, was drafted in the third round of the 1986 NHL draft. He, too, once made an NHL debut, and their careers as hockey players have no doubt brought them that much closer together, in a way that extends a father-son relationship.
“He’s been great to me throughout my life, especially in my hockey career,” Byram added. “I talk to him a lot about the game, a lot about my game. He’s been there to help me throughout, since I can remember.”
Byram’s dad played five games in the league, and when asked how it was to have two NHL players in the family now, the younger Byram quipped: “Hopefully I can surpass my dad in games played,” as he chuckled.
It’s very likely Bowen Byram will indeed surpass those five games — and some. And it’s very likely it happens even as early as this season. Coach Bednar said the hope is “there’s real tough decisions to make when it comes to our lineup” and keeping Bowen Byram in it. For Byram, though, he’s taking the whole thing in stride, one game at a time.
“I don’t know, I’m just really excited to play,” he said once more, with that beaming, wide-mouthed smile one might expect from a kid about to make his NHL debut.