There are rookies and there are rookies.

One sees the game through eyes intense and hardened by years of enduring pressure packed situations and excelling in them. The latter sees the game as a deer sees headlights cruising towards it at a smooth 55 miles per hour; it’s bright and shiny and seems pretty non-threatening until fur meets bumper and deer meets Jesus.

Missouri Mavericks rookie defenseman, Kevin Tansey, has quickly distinguished himself as the former. In a season that has seen its share of ups and downs, Tansey has been the model of consistency and has been anything but a rookie as he takes life one day at a time.

Humbleness is a common attribute of good hockey players and with Tansey being exceptional, it’s not surprising to find a man who really understands where he is in life and what it took to get here. With parents and a brother that mean so much to him, Tansey has endeared himself to a Mavericks fan base that values a family-first mentality.  The Hammond, Ontario native immediately gives credit to his brother for being understanding and his best friend even when his parents were following him around to hockey tournaments and not spending as much time as maybe they’d like with him. With family 19 hours away, though, Tansey has found solace in his new family in Missouri.

“Any time after I get done with a game and I look at my phone, I have three or four tweets from fans saying good job, great game, nice hit,” Tansey said. “The support there is really good. Our boosters and Adopt-a-Mav program really help us out in every way possible. It makes being 19 hours away from home not so hard because you have a second family that takes care of you. It’s really nice.”

As the game has slowed down for the 23-year-old, life has also afforded him time for reflection about where he sits in his career as he takes it one day at a time.  In a year’s time, Tansey has gone from college to the American Hockey League with the Binghamton Senators, to an extended tryout with the St. Louis Blues, to an AHL contract with the Chicago Wolves, to the ECHL All-Star Game as a representative of the Missouri Mavericks.  That’s quite a whirlwind tour at an age when most of us were trying to figure out what we were going to do in life. Tansey handles it all, especially the All-Star recognition, in stride with the poise of a veteran.

“I was honored, as a first-year player, to get that kind of recognition and I think it doesn’t just go to myself, but everyone on this team that has helped me get there. From coaches, other players, and guys who have helped me improve my game, it’s more of an all-around recognition and it’s been a lot of fun.”

Kevin Tansey challenges a Wichita Thunder shot (Photo: John Howe/The Sin Bin)

Improvement is a word that the young blueliner uses a lot. Tansey gets what the end game is; use this level to improve and round out your game and then make the most of the opportunities at the higher levels.  It would be so easy for him to doubt his abilities or feel sorry for himself that he isn’t currently playing at a higher level, but with the savvy of a veteran player, he chooses to make the most of the hand life has currently dealt him.  It’s humble. It’s admirable. It’s the great hockey story of a guy that works hard for everything he can get. It’s living life one day at a time; never too high, never too low. With a smile and a look of appreciation in his eyes, he credits his current coach, John-Scott Dickson, with providing some of those chances this season.

“I owe a lot to him. I was actually between signing with two different teams, and I was leaning towards the other one to be honest.  I got a call from him and he said he had worked to get me a camp with St. Louis that wasn’t there before and he got me a camp with Chicago that wasn’t there for me before. So, after that, I got the papers and signed them right away.  Then, I actually I earned a higher contract with Chicago. I owe a lot to him and I’m forever grateful.  He’s really helped me out this year.”

As he’s adjusting to life as a professional hockey player and the emotional roller coaster that comes with that, Tansey continues to focus on his personal goals.

“Playing for any NHL team would be amazing. My motto for this year has been to take it one day at a time and it’s been working out. So, I’m just going to take it one day at a time, work hard, keep my head down, do everything right and see what happens.”

Tansey prepares to go duck hunting on a Mallards player (Photo: John Howe/The Sin Bin)

Tansey is as loose as you’ll find with no set game day routine or superstitions. Feel like eating? Do it. Go shopping on a game day? Sure. Take a nap? Take it or leave it. Randomly yell or meow at a guy on the ice? Why not? Each day is its own thing and what it brings may present an opportunity to make yourself better.

His advice to young hockey players…

“Keep your head up. You never know what kind of road you’re on. If you just work hard, good things will happen. Do everything right and things will work out for you.”

Really sounds like a “rookie”, eh? That’s the thing, Tansey is anything but a rookie. This young man is steady, determined, and has his life and goals in perspective. With the success he’s had throughout the past year, one can guess that this young man’s future is incredibly bright. The road to play at the next level is littered with obstacles, but when you approach life one day at a time, nothing gets too big or small in one’s eyes.

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