HOMETOWN BOY STILL AT HOME
Thursday, 09.6.2007 / 11:20 AM ET / Features
By Erin Pollina - Sabres.com
|Grinder Patrick Kaleta|
The 2004 draft pick (176th overall) battled his way through the American Hockey League last season playing 58 games with Rochester and scoring 15 points. He even had a short appearance donning the blue and gold in seven games with the Sabres.
In some ways many things have changed for the Buffalo native in a year. Other things, however, have remained the same.
“My friends and family don’t treat me any different,” he said. “I still have to do the dishes and mow the lawn and all that kind of fun stuff. Maybe some other people might [act differently] but I know who my true friends are and they treat me just like anyone else would.”
Kaleta admitted that fans asking for autographs occasionally swarm him now, but said the pros tend to outweigh the cons of playing in front of his hometown.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “You get to see your friends and family at the games and a lot of people are behind you just for being from Buffalo… to be able to play for the team you grew up with is an amazing feeling.”
Perhaps one of the most amazing games last season was Kaleta’s first in the NHL. The infamous brawl against the Ottawa Senators Feb. 22 that included a 20-minute delay, 12 skaters and 100 penalty minutes was an appropriate way to introduce the 20 year-old.
“It was a pretty exciting game to be a part of,” he said. “It being my first game and having everyone there watching and cheering me on was great.”
The cheers continued when Kaleta himself became entangled in the fight, battling Ottawa’s defenseman Chris Phillips.
Kaleta and Phillips received matching 10-minute misconducts.
“The brawl thing was pretty cool because I don't really mind that stuff. If I need to fight or whatever I'll do it.”
Kaleta has been renowned in juniors and the AHL for his physical presence. In 2005 he was voted the best body checker for the OHL Eastern Conference in the Coaches’ Poll, and in 2006 he was voted the third-best in the same poll.
However his physical presence was not the only reason Kaleta was noticed. He also scored his first point with an assist on Clarke MacArthur’s goal.
“I didn't really expect to do that,” he said. “I was trying to but to have a point in my first game and have all that stuff happen was just a great way to get broken into my time in the NHL.”
He is determined to stay there.
“I have matured as a hockey player… learned a lot of new things coming up to the AHL and NHL. [There are] a lot of little things you have to learn to make yourself a better player. I've learned a couple of those things along the way but hopefully as the years keep going I can be a little bit better.”