When Nashville Predators defenseman Marc Del Gaizo got word he’d be making his NHL debut Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers, his family was willing to great lengths to be there to support him.
However, the 24-year-old blue-liner talked them out of spending close to 13 hours (8 ½ driving, 4 ½ flying) traveling between the U.S. and Canada.
“They were going to drive to Toronto from New Jersey and then fly to Edmonton with the hope of getting a flight (home) from Toronto,” Del Gaizo said. “But I told them that’s a little crazy. Not to say it’s not worth it, but that would’ve been a little too much.”
First NHL game feels pic.twitter.com/RjhWLzydoV
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) November 4, 2023
Watching their son’s debut from the comfort of their New Jersey home, the Del Gaizo’s didn’t have to wait long to see Marc score his first NHL point, which came 10:22 into the first period when he assisted on a Filip Forsberg goal that tied the game 1-1.
It was a moment years in the making — one that started in 2014 with the New Jersey Rockets 16U AAA team and led all the way to the NHL, with Del Gaizo’s family supporting him every step of the way.
“Leading up (to the game), it didn’t really (sink in),” Del Gaizo admitted. “But during the anthem and the warm-ups and the lap, I was just thinking of my family out there and got a little bit emotional. I can’t thank [them] enough. They weren’t able to make it, but they were there with me.”
Marc Del Gaizo teared up during his postgame interview when I asked about his emotions during his NHL debut: "I can't thank [my family] enough. They weren't able to make it, but they were there with me. I can't thank my mom and dad and my two brothers enough for everything."
— Emma Lingan (@emma_lingan) November 4, 2023
Del Gaizo was a standout during training camp, and he was among the final roster cuts ahead of the Predators’ Oct. 10 season opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He impressed during the Milwaukee Admirals postseason run, notching four goals and 12 points in 16 games before the team was eliminated in the AHL Western Conference Final.
That performance earned him some lofty praise heading into the offseason, and by the time he got to camp, he earned a lengthy look from first-year head coach Andrew Brunette. In three preseason games, Del Gaizo scored one point and averaged 2:28 of power-play time and 1:32 of penalty-kill time per game.
In his first NHL game, he skated on Nashville’s third pairing with Tyson Barrie and finished with one shot on goal, two blocked shots and two hits while playing 18:02. Though Del Gaizo’s call up will likely end once Cody Glass returns from injured reserve, he at least showed on Saturday — against Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, no less — that he can hang with the top players in the world.
“I think he deserves (his opportunity),” Brunette said after Saturday’s win. “I thought he had a great camp, and he’s a great kid and very competitive. It was nice to see him play and nice to see him get a point. I thought he played really well.”
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