Photo by Tom Sorensen.
Not too many 16-year-old hockey players can tell stories about shooting pucks with Hockey Hall of Fame forward Adam Oates or sharing their home with Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin.
For U.S. National Under-17 Team forward Graham McPhee, those occurrences were just part of life growing up as the son of George McPhee, the longtime general manager of the Washington Capitals.
“My dad had an unbelievable amount of influence [in my hockey career],” said Graham McPhee, who started skating when he was 3 and began hockey at 5. “He spent 17 years working for Washington, so I was very fortunate to be in that environment. Being around the professional guys all the time, you obviously want to be like that some day.
“It is something really special that I had compared to other kids coming from small hockey communities and not being able to be around pro teams, like me. I was in the locker room meeting with players and even having Alex Ovechkin live with my family for a few months.”
One of McPhee’s favorite memories was shooting pucks with Oates, the five-time NHL All-Star who later became the Capitals’ coach.
“He’s a great guy,” McPhee said. “He’s very intelligent with that type of skill stuff. Sometimes when practice was over, he would be nice enough to let me go out there and work on stuff such as stick handling, one timers. It was pretty cool, since he is a Hall of Famer.”
George McPhee wasn’t quite a Hall of Fame player, but he offered quite the career for his son to emulate. After winning the Hobey Baker Award in 1982 while playing for Bowling Green State University, George played seven years in the NHL with the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils.
One way Graham is emulating his father’s career will come in college.
The younger McPhee has committed to play for coach Jerry York at Boston College. York coached George McPhee at BGSU back in the 1980s before taking over at BC in 1993.
“That was a big factor on why I picked that school,” Graham McPhee said. “My dad always talks about Coach York and what a great coach and an unbelievable guy he is. I’m just ready to get there and play for the same coach that my dad did. We actually have a beach house out on Martha’s Vineyard and Coach York will come out sometimes to play golf. It’s great to interact with them, since we are in the same area.
“I actually grew up watching BC. I was always interested in them. The players are playing in the NHL. It was my No. 1 choice.”
For now, McPhee is concerned about making the transition from Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Minnesota to playing against junior and college opponents with the National Team Development Program.
“I was really excited. This was a goal for me every since I got to Shattuck for my freshman year,” he said. “I was happy with the development that I got at Shattuck to get me here. I have to thank them for helping me get to this place. The transition wasn’t too hard. It’s pretty much the same — on the ice every day, work out hard.”
Despite that ease, he has been most surprised by the speed of the United States Hockey League game.
“You are playing against older guys, and it’s the speed,” he said. “It’s really competitive, and I’m a competitive person so I’m very excited.”
McPhee has two assists in the first few games as he and his teammates gear up for a pair of games against the Minnesota Elite League this weekend. He understands that he must continue to work hard each day in practice to get better.
“Everything,” he said of what he needs to improve, “but mostly defensive coverage and being good in my defensive zone and getting the puck out. And making things happen when I have the puck at all times. Always trying to make a difference and control the game with what I do.”
No matter what happens, McPhee knows he has several individuals he can turn to for advice. Plus, he can reflect on some motivating words he’s already received.
“No matter how rough things are going, just keep the same work ethic both on and off the ice,” McPhee said, echoing the most common advice he has received.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
#33 Graham McPhee (Photo by Dave Reginek)
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