Scott Sabourin finally got his chance, and he wasn’t disappointed. Well, he probably was disappointed because the Ottawa Senators lost, but from a personal point of view, he had to be happy. After struggling in the minors for so many years, he played his first NHL game and scored a pretty goal. It has to be a good feeling.

Sabourin Is a Great Story

Personally, I love these stories. Hard-working player sticks with it; and, for at least one shining moment finds the success he’s been seeking for many years. Sabourin had to have dreamt about this moment since he was a young person. Elliotte Friedman said it well in a post-game game review, noting that when any player makes it to the NHL for even one game is a really good player. Welcome to the NHL, Scott.

Sabourin came to the Senators training camp on a professional tryout (PTO) and impressed coach DJ Smith enough to earn a one-year, two-way contract and a roster spot for opening night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Sabourin almost literally fought his way through the minors, and the feisty forward played his first NHL game in the season’s opener on Wednesday.

What might have made this NHL debut more special is that it came as a member of his hometown team — the Ottawa Senators. He grew up in the Ottawa area and, in 2007–08, he played with the Ottawa Jr. 67s Minor Midget AAA team. Now he’s made it all the way.

As the 27-year-old Sabourin admitted, “It’s been a long, hard road. I just kind of stuck with it and things seem to be paying off.”

He added, in reviewing his career, “I guess if I had the opportunity when I was 20, I might be a little more nervous about it, but because I’ve been playing pro so long, I think I finally get it. I think maturity is a lot of what helped me get here so I’m just going to take it as another day, another game and go out and do my best.”

Although he seems to have a Zen-like attitude about his career, it hasn’t always been easy. Over the years, Sabourin suggested there were times he questioned if it was worth continuing to play. “I’ve always hoped and always just kept working,” he said.

Related: Ex-Maple Leafs’ Connor Brown Is Happy to Be in Ottawa

For young hockey players, Sabourin is an example of how hard work can eventually pay off. “All you can control is your work ethic and that will dictate your play, so I just tried to take it day-by-day and put my best foot forward and luckily it’s led me here.”

Sabourin has the reputation of a player who throws punches, has grit, and will do whatever it takes to help this team win. Some question why the kept a player with such a reputation when the organization sent more offensive-minded prospects to the team’s AHL affiliate in Belleville, Ontario. In fact, perhaps until last night’s game, that was a good question. The six-foot-three, 201-pound Sabourin had 646 career penalty minutes in 308 AHL games with five teams.

However, last night was a nice moment. Sabourin scored a goal on three shots in his first NHL game.

DJ Smith noted, “I knew he was a tough kid, but he proved he could get on the forecheck and he could create some action out there and keep some guys off to allow some of our guys to play hockey.” It probably also helped that the Senators head coach had coached Sabourin in junior with the Oshawa Generals. He knew what he was getting.

Smith has faith in the young rookie, suggesting he’s more than just tough. “Just being tough, you can’t be in the National Hockey League, you’ve got to be able to play the game and I thought he was able to handle the pace well. He wouldn’t have made the team on just toughness. He had to prove he could get up and down and forecheck.”

Sabourin’s First NHL Memorable Moment

During preseason, Sabourin earned a bit of celebrity following a game with the Maple Leafs when he ran into Toronto’s Auston Matthews. In a bit of cheeky move, Matthews proceeded to look over Sabourin’s shoulder to see the name on the back of his jersey. It was an obvious diss, and Matthews was implying he had no idea who Sabourin was. Ironically, the video went viral and suddenly people began to learn about Sabourin.

Sabourin noted, “It was what it was. I enjoyed it and had a good chuckle about it.” He also noted that he appreciated the exposure.

However, Matthews’ actions didn’t make everyone laugh. Senators depth defenseman Mark Borowiecki was one of them. Obviously, he took what happened to Sabourin personally as well and, in his comments, he suggested that what Matthews did he was doing to other players who did not have the talent that Matthews has. He made a good point, as you can see in his quote below.

Related: Toronto Maple Leafs: Should Babcock Have Made Jason Spezza a Healthy Scratch?

“I thought it was a little disrespectful to be honest. We’re not all blessed with Auston Matthews’ talent, unfortunately, but I truly wish I was. Some of us have to do it the hard way. I don’t have his God-given talent and I’m sure [Sabourin] would tell you he doesn’t either and for some of us we don’t get the accolades or the glory, but we’re still legitimate hockey players and we’ve worked a lot and sacrificed a ton to get here.”

Good point.

Final Thoughts

As I suggested, we at NHLTradeRumors.com appreciate hockey players like Sabourin who have struggled to make the NHL. Our hats go off to Sabourin. We congratulate him on a great first game and hope his success continues throughout the 2019-20 season. It’s nice to see someone with his story make it to the NHL.