NHL

A hockey heritage: Andy Bathgate's grandson

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TORONTO (AP)

The coach is more than happy to get someone with a strong work ethic and good skills. The coach also wouldn't mind hearing a few stories.

His player, after all, has some alluring hockey bloodlines. His name is Andy Bathgate, grandson of the Hall of Famer by the same name.

''Andy's a good kid and I think he'll fit well with our systems here,'' says Mike Vellucci, coach of the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. ''I haven't had much time to talk to him yet and ask about his grandfather, but we have a road trip coming up and I'm sure we'll make time then.''

The Whalers, a Michigan club, acquired Bathgate over the summer. The 20-year-old from Brampton, Ontario, joined the team that some peg as the one to beat this year after three seasons with the Belleville Bulls.

''The trade from Belleville to Plymouth was brought up by me and my agent,'' Bathgate told The Canadian Press. ''Going into your overage season, you want to play on a contender, and I felt Plymouth was a good fit after I had heard there was some interest in me.''

In the summer, he works at a driving range and golf course founded by his father and grandfather. His 79-year-old grandfather still works at the range seven days a week and it's during the summer when the grandfather and grandson bond.

''When we're together, we don't do much working,'' young Bathgate said. ''It's more talking about everything hockey. He is by far the best person for stories and pointers on the game. I don't think it will ever get old talking about him. I didn't realize until I was about 15 years old just how great of a hockey player my grandfather was.''

The grandfather spent 17 season in the NHL, with the New York Rangers, Toronto, Detroit and Pittsburgh. The right wing won the Hart Trophy as MVP with the Rangers in 1959 and won a Stanley Cup with the Maple Leafs in 1964. He left the NHL in 1971.

''Hearing him tell stories of his playing days and seeing that Stanley Cup ring on his finger every day is something else and I look forward to every time I get to see him,'' young Bathgate said.

For all the hockey heritage in the family, the grandson never felt pressured to play the game.

''Hockey has been an enormous part of my life, but I wouldn't say it's all I've ever known,'' said Bathgate, a 2009 Pittsburgh draft pick who didn't sign and is now a free agent. ''I enjoy other sports like roller hockey and golf, and academics are very important to both me and my parents. All in all, hockey has been and continues to be the biggest part of my life and really the most enjoyable.''

Now in suburban Detroit, Bathgate is getting acclimated to new surroundings in a new country - and taking in every bit of it.

''It's safe to say that Belleville and Plymouth are worlds apart,'' Bathgate said. ''I loved my time spent in Belleville and met tons of very nice people, but I am really enjoying being here in Plymouth. Everyone from the coaching staff, to the guys, to my billets has been nothing short of amazing.''

The junior league is for players 15 to 20. Bathgate understands his responsibilities as one of the older players.

''There are things that you are expected to do,'' he said. ''Aside from scoring points, I'm looking to be a leader on a very talented team and contribute any way I can. If we have a good year this year teamwise, I'm pretty sure my goals as an individual will be much more easily accomplished.''

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