After over 300 games in the minors and nearly 300 in the WHL before that Justin Dowling has made it to hockey’s highest level. The 26-year-old former Broncos captain made his NHL debut and added an assist tonight as Dallas beat Winnipeg 3-2. Early in his professional career it didn’t look like this day would come. His first pro season was spent mostly in the ECHL and he only managed 2 points in the 22 AHL games he got to play. That led to a change of organizations and Dowling then slowly worked his way up the ladder from the ECHL to a shot in the AHL to a full-time AHL job to a two-way NHL contract and finally the NHL debut. He went undrafted in both the WHL and NHL… now look where he is today. The odds were long and not only did he arrive but he delivered tonight.
It’s always great when a player you watched grow and evolve in junior gets his first NHL game like a Cody Eakin, Adam Lowry, Dale Weise, Zack Smith and Brett Lernout. It’s extra special when it takes this long to get there because people were probably starting to count him out.
I have no idea where Dowling’s story will take him after tonight. I’m sure cheering for him to keep climbing and earn a full-time spot in the show. Even if it doesn’t happen he achieved something today nobody can ever take away from him. I’m sure a lot of Broncos fans that saw him from a 15-year-old list player to a 20-year-old captain and an alumni making almost annual visits here this summer are a very proud group tonight. It’s what we hope will happen for all these young men when they first hit the ice at the Credit Union iPlex. It’s hokey but dreams do come true… he said as much himself. It doesn’t get much better than that.