Comets Tales: Get to Know Derek Hulak
by Don LaibleJul 18, 2016
Derek Hulak has the inside scoop on what it means to be a member of the Utica Comets. With personal ties aplenty, the third year pro jumped at the opportunity to play in Utica.
After skating two full seasons for the Texas Stars, Hulak, 26, is bringing his game to Utica. Of all the considerations an athlete can include when choosing the best fit for their career, one word sums up Hulak's choice in deciding to link up with the Vancouver Canucks organization - familiarity.
"(Travis) Green is well respected,” praised Hulak. “I've trained with Linden Vey, and received nothing but praise from him during our few conversations. Green tells you what he expects of you, and is very honest, and direct."
Another familiar connection for Hulak and the Vancouver/Utica organization is Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins. Now is his third season as the Canucks bench boss, Desjardins held that same position when the Stars and Hulak became American Hockey League champions. There is another connection binding the left wing and coach. Both are University of Saskatchewan alum.
"Willie helped me get my start in Texas. Obviously, with us both being Huskies, it's something that you think of," said Hulak, who has racked up 40-plus points in each of his first two professional seasons.
One more Comet name that is quite familiar to Hulak is fan-favorite Carter Bancks. Although they will be teammates for the first time this coming fall, the two have a long history as opponents. The duo spent four years playing against each other in the WHL and as pros in AHL games, Hulak labels Bancks as a guy he has kept tabs on.
"I'm proud how well he's worked on his game,” pointed out Hulak. “As an opponent, I appreciated his talent."
Another selling point? The chance the play in The AUD.
During the 2014-15 season, his first full professional season with the western conference based Stars, Hulak visited The AUD twice. The memories remain fresh in Hulak's mind of battling the Comets and the built-in home ice advantage that visiting teams contend with on a nightly basis.
"Right away, they (Comets) were a tough team to play in their rink. The fans are amazingly loyal, and loud," Hulak explained after babysitting his three nieces for a couple hours in his native Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Believing the Comets are a team going in the right direction, Hulak, like Utica, tells of looking to get back in the finals. Hulak put an exclamation point at the end of his 2013-14 when he joined the soon-to-be Calder Cup champions after completing four seasons of hockey at the University of Saskatchewan. Hulak’s new team, the Texas Stars, defeated the St. John’s IceCaps in five games to take home the AHL’s most coveted prize.
His day with the Cup that August was anything but routine for Hulak. He took the Calder Cup to his mother’s grave. Alina died in 2007, after a two-year battle against breast cancer. In memory of his mom, Derek marks her initials "A.H." on the tape wrapped around the butt end of his sticks.
The more Hulak speaks of the coming season, it's clear that he had done his homework on Utica.
"The 55 consecutive sell-outs, and the mindset of the organization, are what makes me really excited to be part of the Comets,” Hulak made sure to point out.
The community side of an organization and its players, particularly the relationship forged between the Comets and the Mohawk Valley, runs right up Hulak's alley.
"It's important for me to get involved," stated Hulak, a three season teammate of Washington Capitals netminder Braden Holtby (2006-09) with the Saskatoon Blades.