At the trade deadline of my rookie year in the BCHL, the Vernon Vipers (my team) made a massive swap with the Prince George Spruce Kings. Part of the deal that came our way was Rod Pelley, the 5’11″ 200 pound forward that was just traded to the Anaheim Ducks from the New Jersey Devils.

That year in junior, Pelley was a force. He piled up 74 points in 56 games, which wasn’t too shabby for a 17 year old. It earned him a full boat scholarship to Ohio State.

Once Pelley got to college, he showed he could still pour pucks in the net, tallying 41 points in 41 games his junior year – those are impressive numbers in the CCHA. After college, he jumped into the AHL and scored 17 times in 65 games as a rookie. He also had a physical side to his game, but it was secondary to his offensive talents.

As of today, Rod has played 211 NHL hockey games. He has scored 7 times over that span, which makes up part of his 26 point career total (zeroes across the board in seven games this season).

He is not an offensive dynamo in the NHL.

But the thing is, Rod isn’t trying to be an offensive dynamo. Rod’s trying to stay in the NHL.

Since 2009 (and most of 07-08, part of 06-07) Rod has earned an NHL paycheck ($575,000 for 2011-12). He has been on the New Jersey Devils, in the NHL, teammates with guys like Martin Brodeur, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. He’s made it. He’s living the dream, off to be join Teemu Selanne, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan.

Rod is playing the role of fourth line grinder with a focus on defense and physical play. A night where you don’t get scored on is good. A night where you do get scored on is a catastrophe. He consciously chose to play that role, because he recognized the Devils didn’t see him as a potential top-6 forward in the NHL. He had hit his ceiling.

He’s been coachable and understanding, adapting his game to the way they want him to play at the sacrifice of offensive glory, and he has been rewarded.

To many of you, that sacrifice may not sound like much of a big deal. Plenty of people are saying “I’d dump the puck in for an NHL paycheck. He’ll, I’d get kicked in the nuts once a day to play in the NHL.”

But when you’re actually on the way up and getting near that goal, it’s not as easy as it sounds. You have your pride, and you’ve earned your way to the “A.” “Maybe some other team will see me as a top-6er,” says the player entering his sixth AHL season.

There are plenty of players who wouldn’t listen, wouldn’t learn, and wouldn’t adapt who are thriving in the AHL or Europe. Guys who only know how to play one way, their way, and since it worked to get them where they are, that’s how they’re going to continue playing.

The NHL is full of the guys who changed how they play to make it, too. It must take a little pride-swallowing. But for many, it’s the difference between living the dream and living in Russia (no offense to Russians, I mean from a hockey standpoint).

It tough to be introspective enough to realize that what you’ve always done isn’t working well enough, and it’s time to adapt or accept that you’re not moving any farther up. It’s tough to do that in any career. I give a lot of credit to guys who step back from the glory-filled goal-scoring role, put on their work boots and climb the ladder. And so, I give a lot of respect to Pelley for making it.

Here’s to Rod having a successful run in Anaheim. My hunch is, even if it isn’t going well, he’ll find some way to stick around.

Comments (10)

  1. Hey Justin,

    Great article. Life is funny sometimes. I have a connection to Rod Pelley. His dad grew up in my hometown of Bishop’s Falls, NL so we consider Rod somewhat of a hometown kid even though he grew up in BC. Anyways, he played in my charity softball tourney a cpl yrs back and was a great dude to hang out with. I was talking to him last week when The Devils were in town, he said this year “has been a grind to say the least”. I will say this. He was on the ice with Adam Oates until 1 pm, a full hour after the team bus left the arena working on his defence. I’m sure getting traded sucks but I hope he gets playing time with The Ducks. I’m sure he packed his work boots. -PB

  2. Great read. In almost any profession, any walk of life, you need to learn and adapt accordingly to your surroundings or situation. Even if it isn’t about “changing your game.” Grabner is a phenomenal example for this. As a rather skinny forward, he was always told to bulk up in order to compete in the big show. By bulking up and putting on weight, he wasn’t able to play using his strengths. He shed the pounds, worked on conditioning and skating, and now is successful young player who gets about two breakaways a game… although he converts on maybe 1 out of every 10, haha!

  3. I’m pretty sure that if I had any talent, I’d wash cars before I’d play in a Russian league.

  4. Awesome read. I hope Pelley the best in Anaheim. I wish society would appreciate people with his character more.

  5. Hot Rod was a little unfortunate that Henrique has shown up to become a force in the lineup. With Zajac (sometime before Xmas) and Josefson (after new years) coming back, the Devils were just a little too crowded down the middle. I hope he sticks with the Ducks, but I’m sure justin can tell us all about the uncertainties of the life of a pro hockey player.

  6. Good for him adjusting his game. Maybe Anaheim will give him the chance to be a top 6 guy since they’ve had so much trouble scoring.

  7. Nice article Justin, I first met Rod on the ice when we were 8, and played against him a lot through minor hockey, selects and juniors… the guy was always a class act, even as an opponent, and his skill was through the roof, saw the ice like no other. It will be great to see him get a fresh go with the Ducks, if anyone deserves it, it’s him. Best of luck Roddy.

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