Just over a year ago, former Arizona State goaltender Joey Daccord made history by becoming the first Sun Devil to play in the National Hockey League by making his debut on April 4 with the Ottawa Senators.
He’s spent the 2019-20 season developing in the Sens organization, bouncing between the ECHL and the American Hockey League. In 24 games with the AHL’s Belleville Senators, Daccord was 15-6-2 with a 2.61 goals against average and a .915 save percentage.
House of Sparky managing editor Andrew Bell got a chance to catch up with the Sun Devil netminder to discuss his first year in the pros, his legacy at ASU, and talk about N’Keal Harry playing for the North Andover, Mass. native favorite hometown NFL team.
Editor’s Note: Q and A has been edited for length.
Andrew Bell: It’s been just over a year since your NHL debut. Any favorite memories or mementos from that night in Buffalo?
Joey Daccord: It’s still so surreal. Having my family, my friends, coach Powers, Andrew Matheson, and Senior Associate Athletic Director Frank Ferrara there, it was a special night. I still remember hugging my dad, my mom, and my family and just how much it meant to everybody. We all knew how much work, time, and effort went into it.
A funny story actually, a friend of my dad’s who works at his goalie company, actually somehow went and bought my first game jersey for me. I don’t know how they did that because you don’t get to keep your jersey. You get a game puck, the game sheet, and a big picture frame with a couple pictures. That’s definitely cool to have, but they somehow got the game jersey and gifted it to us this past summer after I played. We got it in a frame. We haven’t hung it up yet, but my mom and dad are funny and they’ll wear the jersey around sometimes.
AB: At the end of last season with ASU, you had the decision to either go pro or return for your senior season. Looking back now, what went into that verdict and made it the right choice for you?
JD: It was such a difficult decision to make. Even after the season, I sometimes wonder because I had a relationship with so many guys and I loved Arizona State so much. Either way, I kind of had to make my decision. At that time, I remember telling my dad that this is an opportunity to play in the NHL and if I turn this down and don’t get an opportunity for the rest of my life, I’d be pretty disappointed.
Another big factor was that I felt like my game was ready. After three years of college, I had my stats and wins, and improved every season. I felt like I played a very pro style of game my junior year and was ready to make the jump. That was probably the biggest factor, but with how much I loved Arizona State and the people I met there, I still wonder even now if I made the right decision. But I’m glad with how it worked out and I am so happy that ASU had another awesome season.
AB: Lifestyle wise, what was the biggest change in transitioning to the professional level from college?
JD: College is a special place from a school and lifestyle standpoint, but from a team standpoint too, where you get so closely knit with your teammates. In pro, it’s pretty volatile in a sense that there are different players coming in and coming out and going up and down between teams and trades. It’s pretty chaotic. You still get close to your teammates but college is that extra level of forming a bond with your teammates. That was definitely an adjustment getting used to that. Also, I got called up from the ECHL to the AHL, then I got sent back down a week later, and that weekend, I got called back up. I was switching teams and houses, and living in hotels and it was pretty crazy. I lived in a hotel the entire time I was in the AHL.
AB: There’s a number of young, talented goaltenders in the Sens organization, including yourself. What’s the friendly competition like on a daily basis?
JD: It doesn’t really feel like it’s a competition in the sense that we are all buddies. Me and Filip Gustavsson (another Belleville goaltender) were goalie partners for most of the year and he’s an awesome goalie too. We support each other, and him and I always say, ‘Look, if we both play well, we are both going to end up in the NHL.’ At the end of the day, we know if we all play well, we will end up where we want to go.
AB: You were a great puck-handler at ASU, helping your defense break the puck out and even nearly scoring an empty netter against Boston College last year. Maybe a funny question, but has the goaltender trapezoid in the pro game limited your creativity with the puck at all?
JD: My job is just to get the puck in the defensemen’s hands as quick as possible and get it out of the zone. The trapezoid has limited how adventurous and aggressive I get (laughs). It’s not as fun but it doesn’t matter. It’s just about making the easiest play and helping our team. It was a little bit of an adjustment at the beginning of getting used to the trapezoid, but I’ve gotten used to it.
AB: And one of your former Sun Devil teammates, Brinson Pasichnuk, just agreed to terms with the San Jose Sharks. What do you think it says about your guys’ freshmen class with helping this program rise to a national level, and now signing professional contracts?
JD: For me and Brinson to get there at ASU with barely any games played and hadn’t even played a full season yet at the Division I level, and to see where the program is now, that’s something we can feel so proud about and it also was one of the biggest drawbacks about me leaving.
I thought about the four years with the program and I really wanted to be a part of that fourth season because I felt like me and Brinson were part of that class that really took the program to a new level. From where it was when it started to likely two NCAA Tournament berths and two guys signing NHL contracts, that’s pretty remarkable. I think it speaks to what a wonderful job that Ray Anderson, Coach Powers, and Arizona State Athletics have done.
AB: Sticking to pro hockey players and ASU, Eddie Lack retired from the game recently and he’ll be staying on the staff at ASU as a volunteer assistant. Did you ever have any interactions with him, and what do you think he brings to the other guys?
JD: Having an NHL guy, he’s been there and been through it. From a mental side, I don’t think people understand how much goalie coaches are a mental thing. In the summer when we train, that’s when we are focusing on our techniques or fundamentals. During the season, having a goalie coach that has been through adversity in the NHL, and you can bounce ideas off of him, it’s so helpful. He came and hung out last year and went to a few games when he was feeling out the process of coming to ASU, and he’s an awesome guy.
AB: Favorite memory from your time as a Sun Devil?
JD: Well I can tell you my favorite wins. Favorite team win was when Johnny Walker scored and we beat Penn State on the road in overtime last year. For personal wins, shutting out Boston College at home was pretty special because that was my dream school growing up and Corey Schneider was my favorite player, and he went there. And then beating Boston University in Boston. Off the ice, though, I’ll never forget the NCAA Selection Day at the Papago Golf Course. Spending that day with everyone who had been apart of the program and the staff and teammates, I’ll never forget that.
It’s official. For the first time since 1992, an independent program is going to the NCAA Tournament.— Andrew Bell (@AndrewBell7) March 24, 2019
In their third year at the Division 1 level, @SunDevilHockey is going to the postseason. pic.twitter.com/U8gdzYBedI
AB: Unrelated hockey question but still has an ASU theme. Mentioning the Boston schools and being a big New England guy and Massachusetts native, what was your reaction when N’Keal Harry was drafted by the Patriots last year?
JD: I remember when he caught his first touchdown pass this season, I was going nuts because I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I remember my freshman year, I was working out in the gym next to N’Keal, and a couple years later he’s catching a pass from Tom Brady, my favorite quarterback of all-time. I’m super excited for him and I’m looking forward to his career with the Pats for years to come.
AB: Two weeks ago, Coach Powers had a Zoom call after Brinson agreed to terms with the Sharks and he said that in 2022 with the new arena, there will one day be a wall of NHL players who have played at ASU at the new venue. What would that mean to you to not only be on there, but be one of the first names?
JD: That’d be the coolest thing in the world. ASU has done a lot for me in my life and given me some amazing opportunities. To have that would be truly special, and I could hopefully one day take my kids to that place and show that to them and how wonderful of a place ASU was and how it changed my life.