Reid Duke has a good size chip on his shoulder after being drafted 169th overall in 2014 by the Minnesota Wild but not being offered a contract with the team. However, that chip pales in comparison to another event in Duke’s life which he had never talked about publicly until a recent interview with the Calgary Herald.
Engrossed in a period of deep concern over where his hockey career was going, Reid Duke received a phone call in the fall that would alter his life forever. It came five months ago Monday, with news his close uncle, Sheldon Reid, was one of four men who died in a plane crash that also killed former Alberta premier Jim Prentice. -Eric Francis, Calgary Herald
Duke’s uncle Sheldon was a major influence on his life as well as on his hockey development. Sheldon turned an old horse barn into a fully functional hockey rink in which Reid practiced hours a day growing up.
I spent thousands of hours there with my two brothers and Sheldon’s son, Dylan. It’s literally a horse barn. The Zamboni is parked in horse stalls, which is pretty cool. It’s just amazing the part he played in my life – he was a huge part of my career. -Reid Duke
His uncle was also crucial in motivating him to be the best hockey player he could possibly be.
He was such an amazing person. After that incident, it really made me focus on not taking anything for granted and really remembering everything he taught me and everything he would want for me. He wasn’t someone who would just come to hug and smile, he really, really pushed me, whether it was on or off the ice. -Duke
There’s no question the impact it had off the ice as during the media tour in Vegas, Duke found a way to work his family into answers to questions every time possible. He gave off a sense that it wasn’t just about him, it was about everyone who helped to get him to this point, especially his uncle, whom he never mentioned by name. I got that feel before knowing this story, now I really get it.
But it’s not just in quotes to the media that Duke honors his uncle.
Duke honoured them in a different way in front of a large crowd of family members Jan. 29, when he marked his first game in Calgary since the crash by scoring four goals against the Hitmen. -Francis
Four goals, with what probably felt like the pressure of the world on his shoulders. And it’s not just that four goal game, the first time the Wheat Kings played the Hitmen, Duke scored a hat trick, and in four total games vs. Calgary since the crash, Duke scored nine goals, tallied 14 points, and the Wheaties won three of the four.
George McPhee said he likes guys who have gone through adversity, and we all immediately pointed to being let go by the Wild to fulfill that requirement, but that’s nothing to Reid Duke. For a 21-year-old, there’s not much more adversity than what he went through on October 13th, 2016, and Duke responded both on and off the ice in a way that should be admired by all.
I’ve already declared Reid Duke my favorite Golden Knight, because well, he’s the only one, but as we continue to peel back the onion on this young man’s life, it’s not crazy to think he may stay it, even after he has some competition.
Read the whole story in the Calgary Herald here. It’s excellent.