Ben Gleason’s story is one for the underdogs; it’s one for those who have been overlooked time and time again. He’s the textbook example of what can happen when, despite all odds, hard work prevails.
In the offseason following a 2018 OHL Championship win with the Bulldogs, Gleason’s future remained uncertain. He was passed over, once again, in the NHL Entry Draft. It was his third and final chance.
But Gleason remained determined, “I knew that I always wanted to be in the NHL or play for a professional team” said Gleason. “It’s definitely something that I love to do, I don’t want to do anything else with my life.”
Despite going undrafted, his NHL hopes were far from over. A stand-out season with the Bulldogs led to a number of offers from NHL teams to attend development camps as a free agent.
Gleason knew playing in a tournament would be key to showcasing his ability. “I needed to get somewhere where there was exposure,” he said, which was a defining factor in his decision to join the Dallas Stars at the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City.
In the four games he played in the tournament, he notched five points (three goals, two assists) and was consistently one of the best players on the ice. “When I went to Traverse City, I was really thinking I was going to be coming back to the Bulldogs as an overager,” Gleason said. “But that changed instantly.”
His outstanding performance led to an Entry Level Contract from the Dallas Stars and Gleason was told he’d be joining the Texas Stars of the AHL.
Though the jump to professional hockey may have been a shock to the system, Gleason was able to adjust quite comfortably to his new environment. When asked about the change Gleason said: “It’s different from playing in Canada to playing way down in the southern U-S, so it’s definitely something cool that I got to be a part of.”
The difference in leagues was apparent from the beginning “in junior you play with guys that are 16 to 21 and then in the pros you play against guys that are 21 to 35”, Gleason stated, “so it’s a big adjustment in speed, strength, and age.”
Two months into the season, Gleason got the call up from the Dallas Stars. “It was a pretty crazy morning. I had about 100 missed calls on my phone at 7 o’clock in the morning.” When he finally answered the phone, the voice on the other end said “we’ve been trying to get a hold of you since 5:30, you just got called up, you’re playing at 1”
Gleason rushed to make the three-hour drive from Austin to Dallas, arriving later than expected.
“I was already nervous in the first place so I think that made it worse, but I guess I was just more excited to play my first NHL game.”
He played 4 games for the Stars between November 10th and 21st and was able to achieve another career milestone: his first NHL point. “It was something I’ll never forget, it was definitely one of those moments.”
Despite his hockey career taking him to the Lone Star State, Gleason remains in contact with his Hamilton teammates.
“Our group chat, still, someone sends a message in it every day.”
It’s undeniable that the 2018 Championship team shared a special bond, one that will not easily be broken, despite time or distance.
“We became a family,” said Gleason.
Recently, he even made the trek from his hometown in Michigan to Guelph, to catch Mackenzie Entwistle and Jack Hanley capture the Wayne Gretzky Trophy with the Storm.
“I know we’re all rooting for Jacko and Macker right now in Guelph”
As someone who had an unconventional route to reach the NHL, Gleason had some advice for aspiring hockey players.
“[My story] is definitely something that players should look at and be like “Ok if I don’t get drafted I can still work harder. Players develop differently and at different times,” said Gleason. “I’m still developing.”
And his most important piece of advice for the recent Hamilton Bulldogs draft class?
“Listen to Steve Staios.”