Everybody’s version of normal is different. For Ashton Sautner, this year’s version of normal has already included four cross-continental trips on two separate recalls by the Vancouver Canucks. And he loves every second of it.
The call can come at any hour of the day. And the player who gets summoned to the big club needs to make sure they’re available to answer. That includes in the middle of the night, when “do not disturb” mode on the phone isn’t an option.
“It’s best to leave the ringer on and be ready just in case,” Sautner laughed, adding that those late night call is thrilling. “That’s the phone call everyone wants.”
So who’s usually on the other side of the call? The first one comes from (Comets GM) Ryan Johnson.
“It happens really fast. It’s not something you really plan for. It’s spur of the moment,” Sautner said. “You get a call from Ryan Johnson, and that can be at any time of the day, based on the time change and they might need guys after the game. He tells you that you’re going up and the situation you might be walking into.”
After the phone call from Johnson comes in, there’s a brief moment of celebration. Then it’s right back to the task at hand – getting ready.
“I tell my wife and then usually shoot a text to my parents and let them know,” the fifth-year defenseman said. “Then it’s time to start packing: get a suitcase, get a suit bag. Usually you’re in contact with (Comets equipment manager Damion Parmelee) Parm to get your gear ready. Then the car service will pick you up and off to the airport you go.”
When the chaos of the call-up slows down—usually on the plane at 35,000 feet—there’s an opportunity for Sautner to gather his thoughts and really appreciate the process.
“You’ve got a lot of time on the plan to think and reflect on what’s happening and the process of it all,” Sautner said. “I think back to my first game and you get that call being told that you’re playing. I remember that flight because I had known I was going to be playing the next night. My whole flight I was excited, nervous, and a lot of things. You’re going to the big show.”
And while his first call-up might have had a few more nerves, Sautner, who’s now been recalled seven times by the Canucks, still has plenty of feelings when he gets the call.
“It’s cool every time,” he said. “You’re going to the NHL. Every time I’ve gotten that phone call it’s just butterflies in your stomach.”
The easiest part of the entire process that happens in the blink of an eye, at least for Sautner, is getting onto the ice and doing what he does best. Playing hockey.
“Having Travis (Green) and Nolan (Baumgartner) as coaches for my first two years here in Utica has made the transition easier when you’re called upon to go up there,” Sautner said. “Travis has kept a lot of the same drills and knowing his practices helps. It’s my fifth year with the organization now so I know a lot of these guys just as well as a lot of the guys down here.”
Sautner has been riding the yo-yo this season, going up and down from Vancouver to Utica on several occasions already, with more inevitably to come as the year progresses.
Hopefully his frequent flyer information is up to date.