John Chartrand arrived home from school earlier this month to some exciting news.
“I got home and my dad told me I got the call-up to play in Saginaw,” said the 17-year-old Lambton College student and goalie for the Mooretown Jr. C Flags. “It was just an opportunity I couldn’t say no to.”
Chartrand was called-up as an emergency backup for the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit for a pair of pre-season games against the Flint Firebirds, Sept. 23 and 24. Saginaw was short-handed and trailing 1-0 when Chartrand was called in to start the third period.
“It was a little nervewracking,” he said, recalling some motivational words from Saginaw forward Luke McNamara. “He just told me to breathe, and take it all in. Once I got on the ice, it just felt like normal.”
Chartrand made five saves on five shots for the full period, while Saginaw scored twice and took the 2-1 win.
“It was a great experience — really, just a surreal feeling,” said Chartrand, a free agent, who missed out on the majority of his draft year to due injury. “I’m able to go to multiple teams, so it just leaves doors open for me.”
Born and raised in Sarnia, Chartrand grew up playing AAA hockey in both Chatham and Sarnia, and even spent a couple of years with the Macomb Mustangs in the Detroit Little Caesars Amateur Hockey League. He also played for his high school team at St. Pat’s, and last year, was called up by the Sarnia Sting for a pre-season game against Peterborough. Chartrand was also invited to the Sting’s training camp earlier this month.
“Being a local kid, seeing these names you know… you think the world of these guys and then you’re on the ice, potentially trying out with them. “It’s surreal.”
For now, Chartrand says he’s focusing on school — Lambton’s Fire Science program — and settling in nicely with the Flags.
“It’s just a phenomenal group of guys; I think we have a really strong team this season,” he said, not ruling out any future opportunities for another OHL call-up. “You never know what can happen.”
In fact, nothing is off the table when it comes to setting his goals. “I’m always trying to get to that next level and keep going forward,” he said, stressing that sometimes, the best opportunities come from taking the hard road. “After missing my draft year, I was worried that might be the end of the road for me.
“But those doors are still open. Whether you take the short way or the long way, keep your head up and you can do anything.”