Comets Tales: Biega's Call to the NHL
by Don LaibleMar 6, 2015
The music was loud inside Syracuse’s War Memorial as the Utica Comets and host team the Crunch took warm-ups. However, thousands of miles to the west, in Vancouver, the message couldn’t be clearer from Alex Biega. Two weeks and counting since being called up for NHL duty, the dream continues.
On a rare Saturday during the season when the Canucks had the night off, Biega rested comfortably in a residence that he shared with some former Comets who were also summoned for duty due to injuries and other transactions affecting the roster coach Willie Desjardins had to work with. Jacob Markstrom, Frank Corrado, and Adam Clendening were among Biega’s roommates.
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Nearly two weeks to the day after his first “call” to Vancouver on Feb. 15, Biega was sent to the Pacific Northwest. Back in December, Biega joined the Canucks without any playing time; however, this time around it would be different.
“I found out at about 4 p.m. that I would be playing my first game,” Biega said during a phone conversation before the Comets-Crunch game. “I had no time to think about it.”
Arriving in Vancouver at 6 a.m. Feb. 16, Biega saw game time for the evening’s match at Rogers Arena against the Minnesota Wild. Christopher Tanev was a late scratch, which lead to inserting the newest Canuck, wearing No. 55, on defense.
With all the dreaming, did the hype match reality once Biega hit NHL ice for the first time?
“For the most part, it was what I was aspiring to get to (NHL),” said Biega, who logged 313 AHL games before getting “The Call.” “My game prep on the big stage is the same as in Utica. When I’m on the ice, I go about my work the same.”
Heading into a home contest March 1 against the St. Louis Blues (18:46 time on ice), Biega saw game time in six matchups. Getting accustomed to functioning on Pacific Coast time was a mere blip in challenges that Biega is conquering. Biega and his wife, Diana, are expecting their first child. With Diana in Utica, if ever there were an acceptable excuse for the parents-to-be to be separated, getting “The Call” to Vancouver might make the grade.
“Feeling great, every game becoming more, and more comfortable (with his new surroundings),” is how Biega assesses his current situation. Trading in working addresses from 400 Oriskany Street West for 800 Griffiths Way (Rogers Arena) was one that Biega didn’t take for granted.
Teammate Shawn Matthias, a seven-year NHL veteran, reminded Biega to “look up once in a while, to see what you have achieved. Look at the crowds.”
TD Garden, Madison Square Garden, the Prudential Center, and Nassau Coliseum are just a sample of the first-rate arenas where Biega has seen the masses in the seats and been confronted on his shifts with some of the biggest names in the sport today. In hearing Biega telling his continuing story of being in the NHL, the confidence is clear with each question he answers.
“I always believed that I could play (in the NHL), and be a regular, if I had the opportunity,” Biega said.
Of course, perhaps scoring the game-winning goal in his first NHL game, during the third period of his first game on Feb. 16 had a great influence on the Montreal native’s play. That puck, the game-winner, is in Biega’s possession. Right now, the final location of where the puck will be on display hasn’t been determined.
Biega’s “call,” which was in headlines at Fox Sports, TSN, the Seattle Times, and The Province (Vancouver), remains in motion. At age 26, Biega has been able to live a life as he always had hoped, since a child. Only now, he soon can share the details with his own child.
“You can’t look past today,” Biega said. “I focus on the present, you never know what could happen.”