Every hockey player, no matter the level from Bantam to the AHL, has the same dream to skate for a NHL club. Anaheim Ducks prospect Chris Wagner’s dream came true on October 15th when he was recalled for the very first time. His promotion was mostly due to injuries in Anaheim, but when you score a hat trick on opening night and add another goal the game after it’s sure to turn some heads. The third-year pro did just that and was named the first AHL Player of the Week for the 2014-2015 season. The day after being named Player of the week, Wagner was on a plane heading west to Anaheim.
Wagner was the first skater to be recalled by Anaheim. He talked about what he did after he received the news from Bob Ferguson, the Ducks Assistant GM who handles the day-to-day operations in Norfolk, “ I called all my family and friends right after that. I packed a few hours later, but I wanted to call and tell everybody first.”
One of his first calls was to his father Paul Wagner Sr. who described the phone call, “He called me about 10:30 or 11:00 and said I’m going up.” Paul Wagner Sr. also went on to say, “That was something you wish for a long time. I honestly thought it might be coming because of the injury issues up with Anaheim. Guys were going down left and right and they needed a guy. I wasn’t totally shocked, but still it’s one of those calls you wait for.”
Wagner’s recall was special for two reasons: one is it was his first recall ever and the second was walking the red carpet in front of the Anaheim’s faithfuls signing autographs and taking pictures prior to the Ducks first home game. “It was crazy! You think of getting called up and just playing in the game, but it was a whole other level. There was a ton of fans and it was awesome,” noted Wagner on his red carpet walk at the Honda Center.
Paul Wagner Sr. talked about watching his oldest son walk the red carpet with his Mom, brother and cousin looking on, “That was great because it was opening night so it was just a different feel and a lot of hype and it made it that much more fun to experience all that.”
The red carpet walk was only the beginning of a night to remember for the 23-year-old and his family after being told by Ducks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau at Thursday’s practice that he would be in the line-up for the home opener on Friday. Wagner looked back on that moment saying, “Bruce told me halfway through practice on Thursday. He casually said hey, you’re playing tomorrow so get ready.”
Devante Smith-Pelly and Emerson Etem have graduated from AHL Norfolk and are currently mainstays on Anaheim’s roster this season so when Wagner walked into the room he at least saw some familiar faces. He shared his thoughts on seeing them in the Ducks dressing room, “ It makes it a lot better. I hung out with Emer (Emerson Etem) a lot and just being around Devo (Devante Smith-Pelly) in the locker room. I get along with those two really well.”
With a lot of events to choose from Wagner said walking the red carpet before the game was his favorite moment, “The red carpet just because it was that cool and I didn’t expect it.”
Norfolk’s Head Coach Jarrod Skalde talked about the Admirals leading scorer’s call-up saying, “It happened away from the
rink. He got the call that he was going up so I was able to talk to him and congratulate him. It’s pretty exciting for Chris
Wagner to get his first call-up to the NHL. It’s a pretty special moment for him and his family. He’s put in two great years here and he had a great start to the season and you’ll never know when that call comes and he got rewarded.”
Skalde shared the advice he gave Wagner when he congratulated him, “I told him just to be himself. You can’t change (your game). It is what got you there and just do what you do. The only thing I told him was have fun. Enjoy everything surrounding playing in the NHL and make sure to enjoy the moment.”
Wagner was returned to Norfolk on October 25th. Since his return, he has netted another goal bringing his point total to 7. If “Wags” continues at this pace, the Massachusetts native is just a phone call away for Anaheim’s GM Bob Murray.