LAKEWOOD - To build a house, you need doors, boards and windows. Conveniently, all three can be found in an ice rink.
"It definitely feels like home whenever I get to come back and spend time in Colorado," Callan Foote said at a rink in Lakewood. "It's cool to come out and skate like this with old teammates."
Despite growing up in Denver's ice arenas, it's hard these days to find the Tampa Bay Lightning's first-round draft pick in the Centennial state. Foote has spent the past two years playing for the Kelowna Rockets in the Western Hockey League. Nevertheless, there has always been a sense of home in a rink.
"My parents made that very clear to us, we don't have to [play hockey], it's what we have a passion for," Foote said.
As it turns out, Cal and his younger brother Nolan both wanted their passions frozen, just like their dad -- former Colorado Avalanche defenseman, Adam Foote.
"I think the biggest thing Adam provides for them is just his ability from experience," Colorado Thunderbirds director of hockey operations Angelo Ricci said. "[Adam is] there at the ground level in terms of how to play in the NHL, how to make it to the NHL, how to stay in the NHL. Both of his boys are on a path to hopefully play in the NHL."
For Callan, that reality became one step closer in June. He was taken 14th overall by Tampa Bay in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
"You always grow up watching those drafts, so being able to be there was very surreal," Cal said. "It's very hard to describe, but [I felt] lots of chills and you're very surprised, but at the same time, excited. I just wanted to hug my family."
"To be able to put on the Lightning jersey and hat, it's a pretty amazing feeling, and I'll never forget it."
Ricci -- who coached Foote for two seasons with the Colorado Thunderbirds AAA hockey organization -- has seen his progression over the years.
"You knew there was something special there, you just didn't know when something was going to turn, you know what I mean? Where he figured it out," Ricci said. "He's always been a good player, but he's become a very good hockey player, almost a great player now."
While playing with the T-Birds, Cal was also coached by his father. Like his son, Adam Foote was also a first-round NHL draft pick, back in 1989. His illustrious career included stints with the Quebec Nordiques, Avs and Columbus Blue Jackets, in addition to international play with Team Canada.
"You have a father who played 20-plus years in the NHL, won two Stanley Cups, gold medals -- you're going to hear some good aspects of his game and how he plays," Ricci said.
"Having those two as my coaches, my dad for four years, Angelo for two, I've been pretty fortunate to keep on learning from them," Cal added. "It's very nice to have [my dad] on my side. He knows what's coming next for me, he knows what I'm going to be facing, so it's nice to have him in my back pocket."
Callan Foote is the latest name to join the growing list of Colorado youth products to make it to the NHL. His alma mater, the Thunderbirds, have seen 16 others drafted professionally.
"You've got Cal Foote, Seth Jones, Nick Shore, Jaccob Slavin [and] Gustav Olofsson. The list goes on and on," Ricci said. "You've just got a mix of really good coaches, more kids playing and I think they're being developed and put in the right situations to have success."
Ricci also credits the popularity of the Colorado Avalanche and years later, the success of local college programs like the University of Denver, for helping the sport gain traction in Colorado. In the past 6-8 years, he says the number of local players who have excelled has grown tremendously.
Foote will likely spend next season in Kelowna with the Rockets where Nolan Foote is also a forward. Last month, Nolan was selected to represent the under-18 Team Canada at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in Breclav, Czech Republic, and Bratislava, Slovakia.
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