NHL Bloodlines Fuel Turgeon’s Love for the Game

Mar 16, 2022

By: Mitchell Courtney

Many children grow up with dreams of playing professional hockey. For most, the dream evolves into an admiration for those who are blessed with the talent to play on the world’s biggest stages. For Iowa Wild forward Dominic Turgeon, the dream began on Feb. 25, 1996; the day he was born in Pointe-Claire, Quebec.

At the time of his birth, Turgeon’s father, Pierre, was in the midst of his second season with the Montreal Canadiens. Originally drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the first round (1st overall) in the 1987 NHL Draft, Pierre played in 1,294 NHL games for the Sabres, New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche.

Throughout his childhood, Dominic spent time in and around NHL arenas and locker rooms, learning from his father and some of the greatest players the game has ever seen. The memories that are most prominent in Dominic’s mind stem from Pierre’s final two years in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons.

“The memories that stick out the most are the most recent ones from when my dad was playing in Colorado,” Dominic said. “In his last two years there, I had a blast. I tried to be in the locker room as much as I could.”

In hockey, locker rooms are a sacred and secure place for players, coaches and front office staff to build an environment that contributes to the team’s success on the ice. For that reason, many coaches and executives limit the personnel that is permitted to step foot in the room. In Colorado at the time, however, the Avalanche brass felt it was important to allow their players to share their career highs and lows with members of their families.

“Joel Quenneville was the coach at the time and he was great about having kids around, especially after games,” Dominic said. “I was there for morning skates and practices too. Any time I could be around, I wanted to be.”

Though his father was nearing the end of his own professional career, Dominic desired one of his own. In fact, members of those Avalanche teams often joked and remarked that they believed Dominic would follow in Pierre’s footsteps.

“I was still pretty young when my dad was with the Avalanche, but guys in the locker room used to joke about me going pro someday,” Dominic said. “One guy who always used to joke around with me was Ian Laperriere.”

Laperriere, a seventh-round pick (158th overall) in the 1992 NHL Draft by the St. Louis Blues, played 1,083 games in the NHL with the Blues, Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche and Philadelphia Flyers. Interacting with players such as Laperriere helped Dominic to realize that there are many paths to playing in the NHL. Although his father was a first-overall selection, there was an internal realization that even players selected in the seventh-round could reach great heights at the professional level.

“Looking up to all of those guys at a young age was cool because I got to see all of the different ways that they got themselves to the NHL,” Dominic said. “It was exciting to get to experience all of that as a kid.”

Dominic developed a vast sense of appreciation for what his father had done in his career during that time. He noted that as he grew older, he realized how special those moments were.

“As I got older I realized what my dad actually did as a player,” Dominic said. “That certainly sunk in during my teenage years.”

Of course, when your father is a bona fide superstar at the NHL level, there can be unfair expectations levied upon you. For Dominic, however, the comparisons between him and his father have been few and far between.

“His career did not really make me feel any added pressure because we are very different in the way that we play the game,” Dominic said. “He was a highly-skilled, offensive minded forward and I am more of a defensive minded forward.”

Ironically, it was his father, who tallied 1,327 points at the NHL level in his 19-year career, who taught Dominic to appreciate the finer details and the importance of playing a sound defensive game.

“My dad always taught me how important the details of the game were,” Dominic said. “When you are young, you do not really think of those things. His perspective definitely helped me to have a better mindset and become a better player.”

Though he thoroughly enjoyed his time around the game at a young age, Dominic’s path to a professional playing career of his own had a turbulent beginning.

“When I first began to play hockey, I hated skating on the ice,” Dominic said. “I just did not really have a fun time doing it. I would go out there for ten minutes and come back in because I hated having the skates on. My dad would take me back each time and every time we went to the rink we would stay a little bit longer than the last.”

It took some time, and a little bit of incentive to get Dominic to fully embrace life as a hockey player.

“When I was first getting into playing, I was friends with Ryan MacInnis. If I heard that he was going to be out on the ice, I wanted to go out there and hang out with him,” Dominic said.

MacInnis would eventually be drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in the second-round (43rd overall) in the 2014 NHL Draft, and make his professional debut the year before Dominic did. He is currently under contract with the Buffalo Sabres, the team that drafted Dominic’s father, and playing for the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.

Even though he held a disdain for the on-ice portion of his development at first, Dominic claims there was never any uncertainty in his mind regarding his career path.

“I feel like I was kind of born into the lifestyle and meant to play,” Dominic said. “I fell in love with the game at such a young age. There was never any doubt in my mind about what I wanted to do with my life.”

Following his youth hockey days, Dominic played his Major Junior hockey with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League (WHL). There, he recorded 152 points in 259 games over parts of five seasons with the Winterhawks. Following his first three seasons with Portland, the Detroit Red Wings selected Dominic in the third round (63rd overall) in the 2014 NHL Draft. Prior to the 2015-16 season, he signed his first professional contract with the Red Wings. After two more seasons with the Winterhawks, Turgeon joined Detroit’s AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for the 2016-17 season.

In his first professional season, Dominic compiled 18 points in 71 games for the Griffins in the regular season, and added two more points in 19 playoff games, helping Grand Rapids secure their second-ever Calder Cup.

“Being able to experience winning a Calder Cup in my first year as a professional hockey player was very cool,” Dominic said. “I learned a lot from a lot of different people about what it took to be a professional. I was just taking in everything as much as I could.”

In the middle of his second professional season with the Griffins, Turgeon was recalled by the Red Wings in January. Slated to make his professional debut on Jan. 25, 2018 in Detroit against the Chicago Blackhawks, there was some initial concern that Pierre would not be able to witness the moment in person.

“My dad was on the Los Angeles Kings coaching staff at the time and they were kind enough to let him leave during their game in Calgary on the 24th so that he could travel to see my debut,” Dominic said. “It was something I had dreamt about for a long time and it is something I will never forget.”

Dominic played parts of five seasons in the Red Wings organization before signing a one-year, two-way contract with the Minnesota Wild on Jul. 28, 2021. It is certainly difficult to join a new organization after becoming accustomed to your surroundings within another, but Dominic says that he has enjoyed his time with the Wild.

“It was definitely different at first because I was with the Red Wings organization for a long time,” Dominic said. “Everyone in Des Moines and in the entire Wild organization welcomed me with open arms.”

When reflecting on his early days with his father on and off the ice and his own professional career, thoughts of thankfulness and gratefulness sit in the forefront of Dominic’s mind.

“Growing up, I tried to soak up everything from my dad,” Dominic said. “I am so grateful for everything that he taught me. It has been a great journey and everything I have done as a player to this point has been in large part due to him.”

The bond between Dominic and Pierre is unique and one that very few people can say that they share. The scope of their relationship can only truly be understood by the two of them, and Dominic feels fortunate to have been a part of something so special.

“There is a special bond created when you grow up watching your dad play in the NHL and you get to share those moments with him in the locker room,” Dominic said. “To have that experience at an early age and then to be able to have my own career as a professional hockey player is amazing.”

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