When Kings rookie Linden Vey tumbled over the boards and on to the ice for the first time Thursday, he tried to convince himself it was just another hockey game.
"I just wanted to play my game. Go out there and play like I've done thousands of times since I was 4 years old," he said.
This game was different, though, because it was Vey's NHL debut, the culmination of a dream he'd carried with him into each of those thousands of games that preceded it.
"Growing up in Canada, especially, that's all you want to do. You live, breathe and dream about hockey," Vey, a 22-year-old forward from Saskatchewan, said Friday, about 14 hours after his dream had finally come true. "It was a pretty special time."
For his teammates too.
"I think every guy on the team remembers his debut," said defenseman Drew Doughty. "It's somewhere where you never thought you would be when you were a kid. Seeing a new guy play his first game, I always make sure to congratulate him before and after the game.
"I'm happy for them."
Vey's first effort was a varied and lengthy one, featuring 11 minutes 28 seconds of ice time and multiple shifts with the Kings' power-play and penalty-killing units.
Vey, a fourth-round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, was called up a week ago from Manchester of the American Hockey League, where he had 11 points in 10 games. Though his parents stayed up long enough to watch their son's debut on TV, with a two-hour time difference everyone had gone to bed by the time Vey had showered, dressed and found time to call home.
He heard from plenty of other friends and family members though.
"I've never had so many text messages," said Vey, who estimated he was contacted by more than 40 people Thursday night.
"It's something you'll never forget," he added. "It's a special time for myself and also my family."
But leave it to Darryl Sutter, the Kings' taciturn coach, to offer a more somber account of Vey's debut.
"He played 71/2 minutes even strength. He had some trouble in his own end just about every shift," he said before cushioning the blow with what, for Sutter, could pass as a glowing compliment.
"He was good when he had the puck."