Bartschi excited for NHL opportunity
Flames' 1st-rounder overcomes parents' divorce to realize hockey dream
Most players drafted into the National Hockey League have lived apart from their parents at least once in their lives. But Sven Bartschi, the Calgary Flames' first-round draft pick (13th overall) on Friday night, had his family life change long before he wanted.
Barschi's parents divorced when he was 11 years old. He said the break-up was an emotionally difficult experience as a young child.
"It wasn't that easy for me," the Portland Winterhawks forward said. "I wasn't that good in school anymore and I had some trouble with hockey.
"But then I got used to it — could handle it — and it got better."
Despite the early family trouble, Barschi's parents were very supportive of his hockey career.
The native of Langenthal, Switzerland said his mom had to work two jobs in order to be able to finance him playing hockey. Now that he has been drafted to the NHL, he'll try to give back to his parents who gave him so much while growing up.
"They gave me and my brother a lot of things and they always helped me," he said. "They support me over here in Canada, and that's something special.
"I hope one day I can give something back."
The 18 year-old Swiss prospect had 34 goals and 85 points in 66 regular-season games this past season, his first in the Western Hockey League.
His mother may live in another continent, but she still managed to watch every game before heading to work in the morning.
"She got up for 66 regular-season games, and there were almost 80 games [including playoffs] — she watched every game of me," he said.
"She woke up every morning at 4 a.m. watched the game and then went to work."
Central Scouting ranked Bartschi seventh in North America, and 21st internationally in their final draft rankings. The five-foot-10 winger has only been playing hockey in Canada for one year, but is excited about the prospect of continuing his career in the Great White North.
"It's something special — those people [Calgary Flames fans] are hockey crazy, and I've heard a lot of good things about Calgary," he said.
"I would love to play there."
He may be the Flames first draft pick, but he still has a long way to go before cracking Calgary's lineup.
Room to grow
"There are a lot of things I have to work on," he said. "I looked at the playoff finals and I want to try to be a special player out there, do something really real out there.
"I'm not the biggest guy so I have to work on my muscles and my body and be strong."
Before the draft, Barschi got some advice from Portland teammate and team Switzerland member, Nino Niederreiter, who signed a three-year entry level contract with the New York Islanders in 2010-2011. Niederreiter told his Swiss teammate that the experience is stressful, but rewarding.
"That first game in the National Hockey League will be something special," he said. "Nino [Niederreiter] told me he was nervous like crazy before the first game, and it was really something special for him.
"I know it will be something special for me."
Although he moved away from his mother last year — and experienced a difficult, emotional time dealing with his parents' divorce — Bartschi says he feels most comfortable playing the game he loves.
"I want to be out there on the ice," he said, "I grew up with hockey with my dad and brother and I love it and just want to do it. "I feel like I'm at home on the ice."
His home may be far, but his heart is certainly here.