KINGSTON - While most people dream of being able to play hockey and go to the beach in the same day, Queen's Gaels defenceman Spencer Abraham is using the opportunity to move one step closer to his own dream.
Albeit it's just for a week before he will eventually come back to Kingston to play for Queen's and study law, Abraham has been with the Florida Panthers and their top draft picks at the team's development camp. While this will be most of the players first time with the team, Abraham is already familiar with the Florida franchise. Last year, he took part in their rookie tournament against the Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators.
Speaking about his experience last year, Abraham said he found that he can compete at the NHL level. Feeling more comfortable this time around, Abraham has taken on a bit of a leadership role for those players attending their first camp.
He credits a lot of his leadership and ability from his time as a Gael.
"I'm blessed and fortunate to have a great support staff at Queen's headlined by coach Brett Gibson that has help me grow into a player capable of playing at this level," Abraham said.
At camp this year, the team brought together four goalies, 12 defencemen and 18 forwards for fitness testing, workouts, practices, seminars on nutrition, training, leadership, mental toughness, some beach volleyball, softball and other team-building activities. On June 30, they participated in an intrasquad game.
Over the course of last year, Abraham said he worked on what NHLers call "being a pro."
"Playing in the NHL is a 24-hour job, from weight training, diet, meal preparation, hydration and proper sleep," he said. "A season in the AHL or NHL is about three times as long as my season at Queen's and can take a toll on your body. Hence, learning to take care of my body at all times was a necessary step for me if I want to be a pro."
Dreaming of putting on an NHL jersey ever since he was a kid, he said opportunities like this, where he can learn from the greatest minds in the game, allow him to grow both as a person and a player.
In 2016-17, Abraham played 22 games for Queen's and had 16 points from the blue-line. He also went to Almaty, Kazakhstan, for this past season's Winter Universiade representing Canada.
He also played for a Canadian university all-star team in a pair of exhibition games against the Team Canada juniors last December.
With only 10 Canadian university hockey players getting invited to an NHL development camp, Abraham called the whole opportunity humbling.
"Not many people get to go to an NHL camp, let alone go to an NHL camp representing themselves, their entire league, hockey program, and one of the most prestigious law schools in all of Canada."
With this being his second invite in Florida, Abraham knows the team is clearly interested in him. He knows becoming a Florida Panther will depend on how they like his skill set.
"My performance will dictate whether any further opportunities with the club are possible. Ultimately, an opportunity is all you can ask for in this game and then you have to let your play do the talking," he said.
Starting law school at Queen's in the fall, Abraham would have a difficult decision to make between the Gaels and Florida if the opportunity presented itself. Known as a driven person, he said he always wanted to become both an NHL pro and a lawyer.
"Although a lofty goal, I aspire to become the next Ken Dryden, who was a practising lawyer while playing in the NHL for the Montreal Canadiens," Abraham said. "So if an opportunity presented itself then I will be faced with making a very difficult decision in which many factors will be considered."
Not sure what the future holds for himself, Abraham is thrilled about the position he is in and the upcoming season for Queen's.
"Not many people have an opportunity to choose between professional hockey or attend law school at one of the most prestigious institutions in North America while captaining a nationally recognized hockey program," Abraham said.