Many professional athletes tell a similar story. As a child, they envision themselves being drafted by and playing for their hometown team. They put all of their time and energy into securing a spot next to their favourite players. While very few ever get to live that dream, some do. Travis Dermott, a native of Newmarket, is one of the lucky ones.
The Toronto Maple Leafs pushed his dream a step closer to reality on June 27 when they used the 34th overall pick to select the Erie Otters defenceman.
A life-long Maple Leafs fan, Dermott was still tingling with excitement on Tuesday morning as he and more than 30 other prospects took to the ice at the MasterCard Centre in Etobicoke for the first day of rookie camp.
“For me, the chance to get drafted by the Leafs is unreal” said Dermott. “I watched them growing up, went to games and it was unreal when they called my name.”
To further show his devotion to the Maple Leafs, Dermott tweeted a picture of his bedroom shortly after he was selected. No surprise that there were plenty of Maple Leafs’ logos.
While Dermott admits he’s donned the blue and white jersey before, pulling the sweater over his head at the draft in Sunrise, Florida felt very different.
“It was crazy,” said the graduate of the York Simcoe Express and Newmarket Hurricanes. “Some of the teams didn’t have the names on the back of the jerseys but sure enough, when I go down they had my name on the back.
“It was really cool just looking at it, and it felt really surreal to put that jersey on and to maybe have a chance to play in that jersey some day.”
As a diehard Leafs fan, Dermott says it’s tough to see the team he loves struggle so much. Consequently, Dermott wants to make that much more of a difference.
“The team now is taking the right strides,” said Dermott. “You see it all in the press and even talking to the GM and the coaches. It’s really cool knowing where this team is going to be in a few years.”
At 18, Dermott is yet another addition to the ever-growing list of hockey players to come from the York Simcoe Express program.
In fact, the OHL final between the Erie Otters and Oshawa Generals, featured three former Express players vying for the same goal. Sam Harding (Generals), Dermott and teammate Connor McDavid put friendships on hold as they battled each other for the OHL championship and a spot in the Memorial Cup.
“It’s crazy how the hockey world is really small,” said Dermott. “When you play a different team it seems like you’ll always know at least one guy from back home and to play with those guys and against Sam was really cool.
“I grew up playing with Sam, our dads are pretty good buddies so it was cool going out there and playing against him and pretending you’re not buddies for 60 minutes.”
Dermott’s eight-year career with the Express organization spanned novice to minor midget.
“It’s a great organization, great people, it was unreal,” he said. “They did a lot for me to get noticed enough to get drafted (into the OHL) and that’s really what sparked where I am today.”
Dermott joins a rapidly growing list of Express alumni to make it to the professional level. The list features current NHLers Rob Zepp, Barclay Goodrow, Chris Tierney, Steve Downie, Ryan Murphy, Brian Elliott and others. It’s something that Dermott says he uses for inspiration.
“I grew up and I always watched those guys,” he said. “I always watched the York-Simcoe teams a couple years older, and when they were going to the OHL Cup I knew that I really wanted to be in that position as some of those guys were in”.
While odds are high that Dermott will return to the Erie Otters for the start of next season, the smile that flashed across his face as he stepped onto the ice wearing his Maple Leafs’ practice jersey tells you that going back to the OHL is the last thing on his mind.