Calgary calls MeyersAfter a successful season with the UMD Bulldogs, the former Alexandrian was signed by the NHL Flames
By: By Eric Morken, Sports Reporter, Alexandria Echo Press
For some athletes, a life at the top of their sport is almost a given.
Lebron James was destined to be an NBA superstar by the time he was 15 years old. But that’s a rarity. For a lot of athletes, it is a journey filled with ups and downs. The bumps along the road usually weed out the players who do not want it enough to take a chance.
Former Alexandria hockey standout Josh Meyers wants it, and on August 28, he got his chance. That is the day Meyers signed a one-year American Hockey League contract with the agreement that it will expand to a second year, AHL/NHL deal with the Calgary Flames organization. It was a moment that was a bit surreal because of how far he has come as a player since graduating from Jefferson High School in 2004.
“It was one of the happiest moments of my hockey career,” Meyers said. “Finally getting something set in stone for at least a year or two and just getting my chance to make it to the NHL.”
The thought of signing with an NHL franchise seemed like a long shot six years ago. Meyers was a junior defenseman for the Cardinals and was not hearing anything from college coaches.
It was a decision he made after his junior year that started him on his path toward getting that recognition. Meyers transferred from Alexandria to Sioux City, Iowa, where he tried out for the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League. He made the team out of camp but was cut about a month into the season.
“I was cut but that was kind of the first time where I was like, ‘you know, I can actually go somewhere with this,” he said.
That may have instilled confidence into Meyers, but it also put him into a bit of a dilemma. Minnesota rules said a player would have to sit out half a high school team’s schedule if the student-athlete transferred during the school year. Meyers transferred back to Alexandria anyway, choosing to play a full schedule for the Alexandria Blizzard, rather than play around 15 games for the Cardinals.
His decision to play for the Blizzard was a good one as he started to get noticed.
“It wasn’t until the Blizzard that I started talking with some colleges,” Meyers said. “Not anything big, but at least I was getting my name out there. And then it just kind of filtered into Sioux City, and I was more relaxed, more used to the style of play.”
After graduating in 2004, Meyers went back out to Sioux City where he once again made the Musketeers team out of camp. This time he stuck. Meyers was the top-scoring defenseman on the team that summer, posting eight goals and 24 assists. He also led his team on a run to the Clark Cup finals with one goal and nine assists in 13 playoff games.
That season with the Musketeers would end up being a turning point in his hockey career. Meyers got noticed by the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD) and went on to play four years with the Bulldogs in the WCHA.
It also got him an unexpected phone call in August of 2005. The Los Angeles Kings made Meyers the 206th pick of the NHL draft that season. Meyers did not know how to react when he heard the news because he had no idea it was coming.
“To be honest, my roommate from Sioux City called me up and he was like ‘congratulations, and I just said, ‘what for?’” Meyers said. “He said, ‘well, you just got drafted by LA.’ None of my coaches told me it was a possibility or anything like that. So when he called me up I was like, ‘jeez, what does this mean?’ Then a couple hours later I was on the phone with the GM from LA.”
The Kings owned his rights for four years from the day they drafted him. That allowed them to watch his progression while playing for the Bulldogs. He played well at UMD, earning playing time as a freshman and finishing his career with 30 goals and 46 assists in 143 games played as a defenseman.
While he was playing for the Bulldogs, the Kings were making wide-scale changes within their organization. Los Angeles cleaned house after falling from second place in the Western Conference in early January to 10th by the end of the season in 2006. Head coach Andy Murray was fired in late March of that year. One day after the regular season ended, the Kings fired general manager Dave Taylor and Director of Player Personnel Bill O’Flaherty.
“Basically the guys that recruited me and got me drafted weren’t there anymore,” Meyers said. “So I was kind of forgotten for about three years. I went out to LA last summer, but it was a little bit too late. They didn’t really know who I was, and they had their own guys.”
That opened the door for Calgary to get in contact with him. Meyers became a free agent on August 15 when the Kings’ rights expired. It did not take long for his agent to work out a deal with the Flames, who liked what they saw from him while playing in the WCHA.
Meyers flew out of Minnesota on September 7 to start four days of rookie camp in Calgary. Training camp with all the Flames’ players started last weekend.
“I’m nervous and excited,” Meyers said before leaving. “I just want to get the first day over with.”
He will likely go from training camp to the Abbotsford Heat, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Flames, in British Columbia. Meyers said a season in the AHL would be good for him as he makes the transition to the next level.
“I know I have a lot of improving to do,” he said. “I have to learn a lot. For me, I think the AHL would be a really good spot for me this year. Depending on how that goes, I would like to get into at least one or two games in the NHL this coming year. That’s kind of a goal I have for myself. But if I don’t, it’s just going to motivate me more next summer to make sure it happens then.”
Meyers knows the opportunity in front of him does not come along every day. He just wants to make sure he takes advantage of it. Meyers has been working out hard this summer to do that. Working hard and taking chances got him this far, now he’s hoping it can take him even further.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” he said. “From getting cut down in Sioux City – that ended up being one of the best things that could have happened to me at the time – to coming here and playing with the Blizzard and then going up to UMD. Sometimes when I think about it, it’s just not a reality yet.”