Chase Priskie never had visions of being a movie star growing up in Pembroke Pines, Florida. But he felt like a star on the morning of Nov. 4, the day he would make his NHL debut with the team he rooted for as a kid.
When he arrived at FLA Live Arena, the first thing the 6-foot, 185-pound defenseman noticed was a graphic with his name emblazoned on a marquee sign outside the arena. It was a fitting tribute to the boy who was first introduced to hockey at a Panthers’ Learn to Play session.
Ironically, Priskie was making his debut against the Washington Capitals, the team who drafted him but with whom he never played an NHL game.
The marquee sign took Priskie completely by surprise.
“I never thought of myself as someone who’s ‘famous,’” said Priskie, who became the first South Florida homegrown player in franchise history. “So to see myself on the marquee that usually has Aaron Ekblad or Jonathan Huberdeau spooked me for a second. But I thought it was such a touching tribute. It really was awesome.”
Priskie, who was called up from the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers a day before the game, didn’t score and played just 10 minutes, and was sent back down several days later. But he managed to get tickets for 30 of his family members and friends to share a night they’ll never forget.
“I thought it was a good representation of my first game and what I can do,” he said.
Priskie first put on a pair of skates at age 4. Following completion of the Learn to Play program, he played in three different divisions of a rec league when he was 7. He then joined the Junior Panthers before moving to Connecticut, where he attended the South Kent School Selects Hockey Academy, hoping to earn a college hockey scholarship.
After interviewing with several NHL teams during his senior year of high school, Priskie went undrafted.
“I think that’s kind of what lit the fire under me, not getting drafted into the NHL my first year,” Priskie recalled. “It snowballed from there. I was like, ‘OK, I need to just go be the best player on the ice every shift, every game.’”
Priskie did eventually earn a scholarship to Quinnipiac University, where he played as a team captain.
In 2016, he was finally drafted by the Washington Capitals in the sixth round of the entry draft.
In 2019, Priskie exercised a provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which allowed college players drafted at age 20 or older to become an unrestricted free agent if they are unsigned after Aug. 15 of their graduation year.
The Carolina Hurricanes signed Priskie to a three-year entry-level contract in August of that year. After recovering from a Grade 2 tear in his MCL and playing for Charlotte in the AHL, he was traded to the Panthers in February 2020. The COVID-19 shutdown followed, and Priskie was added to the Panthers’ playoff roster last May but did not get into a game.
He re-signed with the Panthers this past summer and has gone back and forth between the Checkers and Florida over the past several months.
“It just made it that much sweeter when I was able to play my first game, knowing that I persevered through some injuries and nothing was handed to me,” Priskie explained. “Everything was earned along the way.”
Last year, Priskie returned to the place where it all began for him: The Panthers’ Learn to Play program, this time as a teacher. He enjoys being able to give back to the community and the game he’s loved since those first experiences as a child.
“Some of the kids knew I was from the area, some of the kids didn’t,” Priskie said. “I just had an unbelievable time going back. Seeing how happy the kids were that I was on the ice, I can only hope to inspire them to chase a dream and love hockey as much as I do.”
Priskie’s advice to kids looking to chase that dream is be a good person first, and work hard.
“Those two [principles] are the primary things in life that set you up for success, especially in hockey,” he said. “But if hockey doesn’t end up working out, people will always remember the ones who treat them the right way. That’s a big influence people had on my life, and that’s something I want to inspire in the next group from Florida.”
The fire to keep playing still burns within Priskie. If anything, he’s more determined than ever to get back to the highest level and stay there.
“I got a taste of competing in the NHL against the best players in the world,” he said. “Now there’s more of a yearning for me to get back there, compete and get to play. There’s nothing I would change along the way … I think it makes the journey more worth it and makes the end result that much more satisfying.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.