Abby Sweet / For the Lantern
Growing up, former Ohio State men’s ice hockey senior goalie Cal Heeter often dreamed of playing in the National Hockey League.
On Tuesday, that dream was closer to becoming a reality when Heeter agreed to terms of a contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.
“I think that’s everyone’s dream who’s ever played hockey at a competitive level — to one day make it to the NHL,” Heeter told The Lantern Wednesday.
Philadelphia had been eyeing Heeter as a prospect for the past few years.
“They had scouts at some of our games this year,” Heeter said. “They’ve been following me in previous years as well. I had known that they had interest for a while now, it was just a matter of time before we figured it all out at the end.”
OSU ended its season last weekend, getting swept in a best-of-three series by Notre Dame in the first round of the CCHA playoffs.
It was just a matter of days until Heeter received the contract offer he accepted from the Flyers, which he confirmed to The Lantern in a Tuesday email.
Chris Pryor, director of hockey operations for the Flyers, said given the lack of goaltending depth in the organization, Heeter will have a chance to make an impact in Philadelphia.
“We think (Heeter’s) got a lot of potential … we’re extremely high on him,” Pryor said. “He’s got a great opportunity in our organization. We think he’s got a bright future.”
A two-year starter in net for the Buckeyes, Heeter is third in program history in save percentage (.915) and goals-against average (2.58), eighth in saves (2428) and ninth in wins (39).
Heeter said other NHL teams expressed interest in signing him following his career at OSU.
The potential to succeed within the Flyers’ organization made them stand out from other suitors.
“At the end it came down to which team I felt would blend me into having the greatest opportunity to be where I wanted to be next year — playing in the minor leagues in the NHL and having the opportunity to play well and move up from there,” Heeter said.
Heeter said he had envisioned himself playing professional hockey early in his OSU career.
“To be playing at such a great school and for such a great program, I realized that maybe one day it (was) possible for me to graduate from here and move on and make it to the next level,” he said. “It’s been a long process and I had to work a lot at every level to move on and get to the next one.”
Heeter’s coach said the goaltender’s growth on and off the ice is the reason he will be playing professionally.
“I think it comes down to one thing — maturity,” OSU coach Mark Osiecki said. “I think he has grown as both a person and a player and I think it comes right down to that.”
He will have to continue to improve in order to play well within the Flyers’ organization.
“Every day, I’m out there working as hard as I can, making sure that I am consistent and as good as I can be,” Heeter said. “At the next level, every player is that much better, so there is hardly any room for mistakes.”
Osiecki accepted the coaching position at OSU before Heeter’s junior season, and with his staff, made a huge impact on the goalie’s career, Heeter said.
“I can’t give enough credit to the new coaching staff,” Heeter said. “They’ve done so much for me personally. You can’t measure the amount of effort and energy they’re putting in to make this one of the best hockey programs in all of college hockey.”
Heeter will attend class at OSU during Spring Quarter and graduate after. Following graduation, he said he will spend some time in Columbus before returning to his home in St. Louis, Mo. Then, he will be off to the Flyers’ training camp in September.
The Flyers have two minor league teams, the Adirondack Phantoms of the American Hockey League and the Greenville Road Warriors of the East Coast Hockey League. Heeter said he expects to be playing for one of those teams next fall.
While he has never been to Philadelphia, Heeter said he is looking forward to one day playing in the sports-centric city.
“The fan base there is absolutely incredible and I know that they’re second to none as far as the fans go, so I think that is going to be great as well,” he said.
Pryor said he expects Flyers fans to appreciate Heeter’s personality and dedication to the sport.
“All those things come into play,” Pryor said. “He’s got a bright future ahead of him. Obviously, it’s going to come down to Cal, but we know he’s got a great work ethic and a great attitude. We think it’s a great fit.”
The Flyers are 37-21-7 and in third-place in the Atlantic Division, as well as fifth-place in the Eastern Conference.