TAMPA — Nerves, anxiousness, trepidation, perhaps even a little bit of excitement.
Ryan Callahan experienced all of those feelings on his way to Tampa after he was acquired from the New York Rangers in a blockbuster deal on trade deadline day that sent Lightning captain Marty St. Louis to the New York Rangers.
Moving to a new organization for the first time in his career, Callahan didn't know what to expect joining a new team and walking into a new locker room. But whatever nerves or uncertainty he may have felt before putting on a Lightning sweater for the first time were quickly put at ease almost from the moment he stood in the locker room for the first time.
“There was an adjustment period that I was expecting, but pretty quickly I felt comfortable,'' Callahan said of his transition to his new surroundings. “The guys welcomed me, and everybody was great. It was a little strange for me, first time being traded and walking into a new room with a bunch of guys I didn't really know, just kind of played against. But after the first couple of days, I felt pretty comfortable ... off the ice and on the ice, too.”
While Callahan has taken quickly to his new surroundings, it's rather easy to see why Callahan's new teammates have taken quickly to him.
With a pair of goals, including a game-winner, five points and an infectious give-it-all-you-have style of play, Callahan gets noticed my his teammates throughout the game.
“He's been great for us,” captain Steven Stamkos said. “You don't really know what to expect when a guy comes into a new situation. We knew the type of player 'Cally' is, but you don't know until you play with him and you see every shift and at every practice how hard he works. He's a competitor, and he wants to win.''
That's the way Callahan has approached most things throughout his career, and really throughout most of his life. It's a commitment that was instilled into Callahan growing up in Rochester, N.Y.
“Growing up my dad always tried to instill that in both me and my brother,'' Callahan said. “He said that not matter what you are doing, whether it's on the ice or doing work around the house or doing yard work, you do it at your best. That's something that has always stuck with me.''
While playing junior hockey for Guelph, those lessons were put to practice when he realized that talent would not be enough to make him realize his full potential. That hard work led him along a path from Guelph to Hartford in the American Hockey League to a fast track to the NHL when he became a regular with the Rangers by the age of 22. By his fifth full season with the Rangers, Callahan was named captain, a role he continued to serve until he was traded to Tampa Bay.
And his lead-by-example style is noticeable when he dives to keep a puck alive, takes the extra stride to deliver a check or puts himself in the path of a 100-mph slap shot. All in the name of winning.
“With our team, that was probably a little bit of an element we were missing,'' head coach Jon Cooper said. “He just brings a different dynamic to our team. And that kid knows how to play the game below the dots and we just have not had a whole lot of those players wheel through our organization. So he's been a great fit for us.
“He's one of those guys you never have to worry about in the locker room, you know what you are getting and it's 100-percent effort. You can't have enough of those guys.''
And when he does one of those little plays that go unnoticed on the scoresheet, he gets recognized for it from the bench.
“Just watch our bench when he hits somebody, takes a puck away from somebody or battles in front of the net, guys are just pumped for him,'' Cooper said. “He doesn't have to come back to the bench and say anything, you just know right then what he is delivering to our team. You love that from your team and his teammates.''