When Tanner Fritz was a kid growing up in Grande Prairie, Alberta, he was an Edmonton Oilers fan who enjoyed watching beloved forward Ryan Smyth. Fritz also admired Colorado Avalanche ace Joe Sakic, and he pretended to be the two-time Stanley Cup champion and Hockey Hall of Fame center every time he stepped on the ice.
Two decades later, Fritz no longer had to fantasize about playing in the National Hockey League. On Jan. 2, the 26-yearold, right-shooting forward made his inaugural appearance in the NHL, with the New York Islanders against the Boston Bruins at Barclays Center.
It was a prime example of "better late than never." And never seemed like the more likely reality for Fritz.
For starters, he wasn’t drafted. He also began his four-year college career at Ohio State at age 20, two years later than most players, after deciding not to play in the Canadian Hockey League, the more popular route for Canadianborn players who have visions of playing in the NHL.