Little Kirby Dach wore his helmet to bed and his skates in the house.
Hockey was never far away, no matter where he went … like, for example, that long-ago foray to a place of worship one memorable Sunday.
“I was kicked out of church when I was little, because I screamed at Jesus to shoot the puck,” Dach — the newest member of the Saskatoon Blades — said Monday with a grin.
Dach terms his love for hockey “a burning passion” and when you listen to him talk, it makes sense.
“When I’m away from the game too long, I just sit in the basement, think about hockey, imagine things,” says Dach, who was the second overall selection in last week’s WHL bantam draft. “It’s just something inside me that says I’m going to be a hockey player, and nothing will get in my way.”
His family — who travelled from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. to check out the Blades’ facilities on Monday — concur with Dach’s self-assessment, stretching from his toddler days right up to now.
“Everything was about hockey,” says dad Dale. “He’d watch the games on TV, stand at attention for the national anthem, he’d run around the house with either a mini stick or a spatula. Everything for him has been focused 100 per cent on hockey.
“He’d build his own little hockey rink out of Lego. He’d play with whoever came over; he made a hockey rink on top of a tupperware bin, and used hockey players from a cake we had for him. He’d take them off, set them up. Everything’s revolved around that since Day 1.”
Two seasons ago, Dach was the highest-scoring rookie in the history of the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League; his 100 points (in 33 games) broke the old record of 84. He was eligible to play there again this season, but opted to move his game up to the midget AAA level, where he recorded 14 goals, 21 assists and 35 points in 34 contests as the league’s youngest player.
That overall package, tied into a 6-foot-1, 170-pound frame at age 15, left him as a consensus top-three pick during what was touted as a deep WHL draft. The Blades traded up one spot Thursday morning to make sure they got him.
“Those are the kids you want,” said Blades head coach and general manager Bob Woods. “Hockey is life to him, and he’s done everything in his power so far to do what he can do to get to this level. Now, he’s ready to make that next step.”
Dach can return to his hometown Fort Saskatchewan Rangers for another midget AAA stint this coming season, but his family is also considering some out-of-town schools with a hockey focus. He’s eligible to play five games with the Blades, and can also join them once his season is done with whatever squad he plays for.
He talks like a kid who’s eager to try his hand at the WHL level, and isn’t shy about stating his long-term desire to play in the NHL.
“I need to mature my game a little more; be more responsible in the defensive zone, and get bigger, faster, stronger — harder shots, better on faceoffs, more reliable,” he says.
“Being so highly touted, you’ve got to perform at your best all the time; you can’t take a night off, or people will think you’re a bust. You’ve got to come here ready to work, and do whatever it takes.”
Dach inspected the Blades’ facilities Monday with fellow bantam draft choices Nolan Maier and Zachary Ashton. It whetted an appetite that was already plenty big before he hit Saskatoon.
“I haven’t been into any dressing rooms like this,” Dach said. “This is bigger than all the dressing rooms at the rink in Fort Saskatchewan, combined. This is pretty big. I just can’t wait to play here.”