The garage connected to Owen Tippett’s childhood home in Peterborough took a beating for years, and at least one window was broken in the making of this hockey player.
But the repair costs have been well worth it for the Tippett family.
After all, it was there in the province of Ontario — about 80 miles northeast of hockey-crazed Toronto — where Tippett learned to fire a puck with terrifying speed and amazing creativity, skills that appear destined to make him rich and famous in the NHL.
“Tippett has an all-world shot,” Florida Panthers broadcaster Randy Moller said. “He has proven that.”
Moller said that of the Panthers players on the current roster, only Vincent Trocheck, an All-Star in 2017, and Sasha Barkov, an All-Star this year, have shots that can rival Tippett’s.
Owen Tippett, a 6-2, 210-pounder, enters this weekend with at least one point in 10 consecutive games.
So why is Tippett — the Panthers’ first-round pick and the 10th overall selection in the 2017 draft — playing for the Mississauga Steelheads in junior hockey instead of skating with Barkov and Trocheck in the NHL?
The simplest answer is that Tippett, who turns 19 on Feb. 16, has to improve the things he does when he doesn’t have the puck.
Tippett made the Panthers out of camp this past fall but got into just seven games before he was sent back to Mississauga, where he will remain for the rest of this season.
In those seven games in the world’s greatest hockey league, Tippett scored one goal on 17 shots, had zero assists and was a minus-six.
“He’s working on becoming a consistent, 200-foot player,” said James Richmond, the Steelheads coach and general manager. “Owen will get it — I’m on him every week about becoming a 200-foot player.
“Some kids you maybe question if they are bright enough to get it, but Owen is smart.”
You don’t have to teach Owen Tippett how to score goals. He’s a big-bodied, strong kid with great speed, and he can really shoot the puck off the rush. The release of his shot is unbelievable.
James Richmond, the Steelheads coach and general manager
MAGICAL FIRST GOAL
Panthers fans got a brief glimpse of what Tippett can do this past Oct. 26 at the BB&T Center. Tippett picked up an Anaheim Ducks turnover in the neutral zone, got the puck to Jamie McGinn on the left wing and made a bee-line to the front of the net. McGinn made a perfect pass toward Tippett, who scored easily.
“Welcome to the NHL!” Panthers play-by-play man Steve Goldstein yelled. “Owen Tippett’s first career goal!”
Tippett, speaking from Mississauga on Thursday morning, said that goal was a dream come true.
“I came off the bench and joined the play,” he said, recalling a moment he will likely never forget. “It was a broken play [turnover]. I kicked it out wide to McGinn. I looked over my shoulder, and it was a two-on-one.
“Now I sit back and say, ‘Wow.’ ”
That “wow” is what executives in the Panthers organization see in Tippett. It’s well known that the Panthers have some skilled forwards such as Barkov, Trocheck, Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov, but most of those guys are pass-first players.
They’d love to have a sniper on the wing who can convert those slick passes into 30-plus goals per season, and that is the potential Tippett represents.
He scored 44 goals and had 75 points in 60 games with Mississauga in the Canadian Hockey League last season. This season, he has 20 goals and 20 assists in just 26 games.
Tippett, a 6-2, 210-pounder, enters this weekend with at least one point in 10 consecutive games, and he scored another electric goal on Wednesday night. After a teammate won a power-play faceoff, Tippett immediately wired a wicked shot past the goalie.
“You don’t have to teach Owen Tippett how to score goals,” Richmond said. “He’s a big-bodied, strong kid with great speed, and he can really shoot the puck off the rush. The release of his shot is unbelievable.”
But it’s more than that, and that’s where Tippett’s skill connects to his youth in Peterborough, where he would spend countless hours — starting at age 11 — alone in his driveway.
It was just him and a bucket of pucks, firing away at a net perched in front of his garage.
Part of what Tippett has learned, Richmond said, was to change the angle of his stick, making it difficult for goalies to read his shot.
Tippett said some of his buddies growing up had shooting coaches. But not Tippett, who figured it out by trial and error.
“I learned that my body can be going one way and my stick the other,” he said. “I can change the shot by either pulling my stick in or pushing it out.”
Tippett took the obvious disappointment of getting sent back to juniors in stride, and he also did a good job handling the news that he was left off the Canadian World Junior Championships team.
The next steps for Tippett are to continue to improve his defense and work on his movements without the puck.
Panthers director of player personnel Bryan McCabe has made several trips to Mississauga this season to work with Tippett, and the two will spend a lot of time together in the summer.
“He’s a natural goal scorer,” McCabe said. “That’s why we drafted him.”
Added Moller: “What’s going to separate [Tippett] is if he’s able to consistently put himself in position to take passes. Because everyone knows his shot is lethal.”