SUNRISE, Fla. — When the Florida Panthers told Anthony Duclair they traded him to the San Jose Sharks, he was emotional at first.
The 28-year-old forward had found a home both on and off the ice in Sunrise.
He wasn’t dealt because of his performance, on or off the ice.
Duclair scored 43 goals and 99 points in 137 games, and added four goals and 11 points in the postseason en route to a Stanley Cup Final appearance last year.
Off the ice, he established the Anthony Duclair Foundation and became a role model to thousands of children in his quest to curb racism in hockey.
“Getting traded was not the best feeling because I built so many relationships down here with my teammates, with the community, the fans,” Duclair said yesterday.
“He fit here, for sure,” Florida head coach Paul Maurice said. “He fit everything other than the salary cap for our team.”
Duclair, one year left on his contract at $3 million AAV, was traded for Steven Lorentz, one year left at $1.05 million AAV, and a 2025 fifth-round pick.
“But at the same time,” Duclair said, “I went to a great opportunity.”
The opportunity presented to Duclair by going to San Jose was what turned his disappointment from leaving the Panthers into excitement.
When he got the call from general manager Mike Grier — a role model of his dating back to his childhood days — Duclair’s mood immediately changed.
“Mike called me right away and explained to me how big the opportunity is for me here,” Duclair said.
“There is a chance to continue to grow as a player in a leadership role. Being here, I’m just growing as a man, trying to help the younger guys become pros. I learned a lot in my three years here and now I’m trying to take that to San Jose.”
Grier, the first Black general manager in NHL history, also told Duclair that San Jose could be another great location for his foundation to set up shop in.
“I love that I’m going to a non-traditional hockey market. It’s a chance to grow the game and that’s what I’m all about,” Duclair said.
”There’s a great opportunity here in California to do some good work and obviously playing for the first Black GM in NHL history — a guy I grew up watching — is pretty special. I’m sure down the road, I am going to open up some doors to continue to grow my foundation, help the San Jose Sharks Foundation and do whatever I can to make hockey more accessible for kids in California.”
On a team that has struggled in recent years, he is the type of player the San Jose community needs to stay excited about hockey.
“Duke is a personality here and he’s a bit of a phenomenon here,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.
“He’s got this huge smile and this huge heart, so the non-hockey part of it is that he just draws people to him. He does a tremendous amount of work in the community because that’s just his personality. That’s who he is. He reaches out to people. You talk to Duke and within five minutes, you’re just smiling as he is. Can’t figure out why and you leave the conversation, but you’re in a great mood.
“The hockey player is really interesting,” Maurice continued “He is a powerful man that can skate and he can get it off his stick as quick and as well as anybody.
“He is one of those guys who is important to an organization because he will be an exciting player to cheer for. You can put his name on the back of your sweater when you buy a Sharks jersey and you can have fun. But he’s also going to be involved in your community to a level that you’ll feel he’s a part of you and he will become that pretty quickly.”
Duclair wants to take his personality that made him a staple in the South Florida community and use it to become a leader in all aspects in San Jose.
Specifically, as the Sharks open their season, with the young players in the locker room.
“He is a great personality. He gives us life and energy, he can really skate and he’s gotten better and better,” San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn said of Duclair, who has one goal through five games.
”When you get to a new environment, there is a bit of a feeling-out process and I think you’re starting to see his speed more consistently. But again, he is a guy who galvanizes your locker room and guys are drawn to him.”
A few young players have already come to him for help, and for good reason.
Duclair has seen a lot as he approaches 500 career NHL games.
Along with the 123 goals and 262 points he put up in his 495-game career, he has seen almost everything possible in an NHL career.
He was traded four times, negotiated multiple contracts as his own agent, been sent to the minors, and has truly seen the ups and downs of an NHL career.
Thomas Bordeleau, who looks to stick around for his first full NHL season at 21, is one of many young Sharks who look up to the Duke.
“He’s just really, really dialed in all over the place. Off the ice, at the rink, outside of the rink, he’s a pro,” he said. “He knows how to take care of his body. I’ve picked up a lot on that, trying to see how he recovers and stuff like that. Trying some of his methods and see how it helps me.”
William Eklund, a 21-year-old rookie, appreciates what he has been through as a pro and wants to learn from that.
“He is a true professional and he is one of those guys you want to look up to,” Eklund said.
“That is why he has been in this league so long, he is one of the guys that you come to.”
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