Andrew D’Agostini goes to class at Trent by day and tends goal for the Peterborough Petes by night. He’s the sole Trent student on the team.
I had a chance to meet him and talk about what it’s like to play in the OHL and attend classes at the same time.
I wanted to start off with asking you about the courses you take at Trent.
This is my second year as a part-time student at Trent and I’ve just taken first year psychology and sociology, [so] it took a full year’s worth of work to get the full credit in each. I took a business class as well. Not a whole lot, but I’m still busy.
And you’re the only player on the Petes who goes to Trent?
Yes, I am. Last year I had a partner, and this year in first semester I had a class with another player, but not anymore. I stuck out the full year.
Do you get a hard time from your teammates for being a “nerd”?
No, but I used to. I was a good student at TAS (the local high school Petes players attend) and I ended up winning the Ivan Tennet Memorial in 2010, an award that goes to the best high school student in the OHL. So, they’ll tease you about that, but deep down, I think they know it is just about hard work. For me it was anyway. I don’t know if I’m naturally the brightest guy but I work hard at everything I do. So, for doing well in high school, it was just a matter of getting your work done on time and putting in a half decent effort and I finished with 90s.
I know that at Thomas A. Stewart, you were one of the few Petes who kept attending classes there after the team got beat out instead of going home. Why was that?
Yes, I did. Two of the three years I stayed, and I only did an extra year to get a couple more credits. I did stick out the full year though because it would interfere with transferring back to my home school with credits. I think math was the biggest issue because of how structured it is in units. [For example,]I might have done something at TAS that they hadn’t done yet at my home school, so then I might end up getting that lesson twice and miss out on another unit. So, I decided to stick it out and it worked out for me.
I also wanted to give you a chance to talk about the humanitarian award you won in 2011 with Cystic Fibrosis Canada and, in particular, your friend Anthony.
It was November 2011 when Anthony’s mom came into our dressing room to give the story about Anthony and what his life was like with cystic fibrosis and just about what cystic fibrosis was.
I had no idea what it was except, a couple weeks earlier, when we had a charity game for cystic fibrosis and one of our staff members told me about it. He said, “Watch the commercial where the little boy or girl falls backwards into a tub, full of water. It’s supposed to represent them drowning in their lung fluid.” And what cystic fibrosis is, is an abnormally large [amount of] mucus in the lungs that affects your breathing and your major organs, so she came in and talked to us and it was a very touching story.
When I moved to Peterborough, my dad was big on “be good to people and they’ll be good to you.” I guess over the years, I realized there’s more to it than just hockey – there are people suffering out there and you can use your hockey (fame and voice) to make a difference for them. We get a lot of publicity through the city and in Ontario, and you try your best to get it even further than that. So, I got involved. I asked how I can help Anthony after meeting him. He was a fun kid and I wanted to make a difference in his life and others like his. The Petes do a lot of different charity events but this was one where I really wanted to make a difference and go above and beyond. I have a fundraising team and we do a walk every year. I think over the years, we’ve raised about $13 thousand.
We also had a feature on CBC for Hockey Day in Canada. They did a feature on Anthony and I, and it was broadcast across Canada, so that was pretty cool.
What was it like being on CBC?
I had two opportunities to be on CBC actually. One was the feature we did in the dressing room. [It] was last minute, Peterborough getting Hockey Day, so we had to pull it together pretty quick. We had a banquet the night before. I got to meet Darcy Tucker and Kevin Weekes, and we did a school visit together. It was sweet being up on stage with those guys, I felt like one of the kids in the audience listening to them. That was awesome.
But it was after the game we won when everything just seemed to be going right. Kevin Weekes wanted to talk before he took off, so they had the panel at the restaurant and my brother came and told me, “Kevin Weekes wants to see you!” So, I threw on skate guards and started climbing through the restaurant with half my gear on. I didn’t know it, but I guess they were about to go on-air, so Weekes said, “Hold on a second, I’ll talk to you after.” But Ron MacLean waves at me, “No, come on the panel! Come on the panel!” So there I am, squeezing through these walls and I finally make it behind the panel, and next thing you know, P.J. Stock gives me his mic and a guy jumps in front of the camera and does the signal, “5… 4… 3… 2… 1,” and the light turns on.
There I was with the mic in my hand on national television, not knowing what’s going to [happen]. It was wild. That was right before the third period of a Montreal and Toronto game. They did a quick interview with me and it was an awesome experience.
I remember watching that and thinking, “It looks like he just got off the ice!” But we’ll shift back to being at Trent. Do you ever get recognized around campus?
Actually, I have a funny story about this. I have a few friends here, having spent the full year at TAS. I was well-liked. And then a few went on to Trent from TAS, so if I see them here, I get to catch up with them. I have some classes with them and it always nice to see them because I had such a great time at TAS. Every once in a while, I’ll see someone I know, but do people recognize me as a Petes player? They might recognize me but they won’t approach me or say anything to me at least.
The story, though, is last year, I was in a psychology class, it was so random. I see a guy with a Petes t-shirt and it’s one the shirts you buy at the store with the player’s name on it and his shirt has my name on it! So, there is a guy, front row in my class, with a D’Agostini t-shirt on. I thought it was crazy. During our break or recess, I went and saw him and said, “You know that’s me.” I was just shocked someone was wearing that shirt. I thought it was pretty funny. It turns out he came to one game and he was an immigrant student from another country. He came to a game and decided he liked me, I think he might have been Italian, noticed my name, so he bought my t-shirt and then wore it to a class I was in. It was priceless.
You have had a new helmet painted and on the back, there appears to be a Trent Excalibur emblem. Is that what it is?
Yes, for two reasons I got that one. One, it is a symbol and it is also part of the Peterborough flag. My helmet is Peterborough-themed so on one side, I have the lift lock, and the other, the clock tower, and I have an old saying underneath.
What does that saying [not in English] mean?
Oh, you’re going to catch me here not knowing what it means! I believe it’s “industry develops and nature provides.” It’s from the coat of arms. I went to the mask guy and asked if he could put on the coat of arms, and he said it’d be too busy, so he suggested the flag instead with that scripture underneath. Then there is the words “I’d rather be in Peterborough,” which I guess is something people say around here. So, there’s lots of neat stuff on the helmet.
This brings us to your relationship with Peterborough. You seem to be one of the Petes who really enjoys being in Peterborough. For a lot of younger people, they want to get out of town, and historically with the Petes, there has been some guys who have wanted to go other places. What have you enjoyed about Peterborough?
Well, it’s been great. For me, I think I’m a little bit of a unique story [compared to] a lot of the other players. The way it works is players who end up in the OHL grow up playing AAA hockey since they are eight years old, and they sort of figure out when they are young that they are going to end [up]in the OHL. It’s just what they expect for themselves. For me, it was different, I was playing single A hockey – it wasn’t even really single A hockey. I called it single A because I wanted to say I was playing a bit higher. After a couple of years, I moved up to AA hockey, and, finally, I played AAA for two years and really had to make a name for myself.
OHL hockey was my dream, I worked really hard for it, and so I was really excited to get drafted here. I knew Peterborough was a place rich in history. Moving to Peterborough, I made a lot of good friends and relationships that will last a lifetime. There will always be ties to Peterborough for me. It is a very homey city; back in Scarborough, you don’t see people you know walking down the street, and in Peterborough, you recognize people everywhere you go.
As you talked about having to work for everything you get, the modern goalie is getting taller and taller. You’re 5’11’’, which is below average for a goalie. Have you found it challenging to overcome size?
It’s going to become tougher as I go on but I look forward to the challenge. You could get away with it in minor hockey but the shooters get better and better. I noticed that when I got an opportunity to play pro hockey here, my first goalie partner was 6’8” or 6’9”, Jason Mission, and that’s just how it is now. They like the big goalies. There are reasons why it’s good to be big and there are reasons why it is good to be small. If I’m at a disadvantage being smaller, then I’m just going to have work harder to get where I want to be in the future, and if it takes a little extra, so be it.
You mentioned there about getting to play pro hockey last spring with the Milwaukee Admirals, correct? What was that experience like for you?
So I got called up after a disappointing final game to last season. It was do or die and we lost to a tough Brampton team. But the next day, I got the chance to go play for the Cincinnati Cyclones of the East Coast Hockey League. It was funny; I’m driving home in a snowstorm to pack up at home, and then the next day, I’m flying to meet them in Florida. The first time I’ve been that far south. It was almost like a vacation, but you’re getting your first chance to play pro hockey. I spent a couple weeks with them, and a goalie from the American Hockey League got sent down. It was unexpected so they said, “Your time is done here. We’re going to send you home, but thanks, and we’ll keep an eye on you.” It was kind of disappointing. They were a good team that were going to go on a long run. I was looking forward to staying there with them.
It was that night, we had a home game in Cincinnati. It was a late night and I was packing up my stuff getting ready to fly out the next day, and the coach calls me and asks if I’d like to play an American league game, just as a back-up. How did this even happen? So, Cincinnati is affiliated with two teams as one goalie got sent down, on the other team, a goalie got injured, so they flew me out from Kentucky to Chicago and we played an away game in Chicago and won. It was great.
You had the chance to play professional hockey and after this season, you are done with the Petes. What do you plan on doing?
There has been a lot talk with CIS teams because they are allowed to contact you now. You know, Canadian University teams approaching me, it’s nice and all. It’s nice to know you have that option. but for me, it is a back-up plan. I don’t know if I should be saying that to a university newspaper, but I take my school seriously. If there was any way I could play pro hockey and get a degree at the same time, I’d do that just for the sake of having a degree. You never know, I might figure out a way to do it. My plan A, ideally, is to be playing pro hockey somewhere, whether that be the East Coast Hockey League or Europe somewhere. Whatever gives you the best chance to make it to the NHL, you do that, right?
Not to overlook what you currently do, but what is probably the best Petes team in the five years you’ve been here, and how are you feeling about what the team can do this year?
It looks good right now, even better than it did my first year. We’ve had some frustrating years in between. Again, this year hasn’t been easy; we’ve just managed to have a better first half and consistently put together some points. We’re in a funk right now that we’re trying to get ourselves out of. We still have to be careful, but we are a lot more comfortable [about making the playoffs] then we were last year. We are sitting in sixth right now, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t make the playoffs and be in a half-decent position to win a playoff game. We have a team to do it, we have a team to win a series or two.
The team made the playoffs your first year here but you didn’t get in any games. Are you excited to finally play playoff hockey?
Yeah, I didn’t get a minute that time around. I didn’t play much my first year at all, I was thankful just to be there. It was a good experience playing here when I was 16 for Peterborough, but I’ll get to play some games this year. I’m thrilled, I’m thrilled! A lot of people ask me, “Why wouldn’t you try to go play somewhere else?” For a lot of reasons we talked about. I love this city and I couldn’t picture myself in another OHL jersey.
You got a chance in 2011 to represent Canada at the U18s in Dresden, Germany. What was that like?
It was awesome. One of the best experiences in hockey I’ve ever had and I’ve had a few. When I got the call, I got emotional. We didn’t have a good year at all [in Peterborough] but I worked hard all year and it was like I was finally getting what I worked for. My first year I didn’t get picked for U17s. I got picked as the third goalie. I didn’t think it was right, but it was what it was. Playing U18s was unbelievable though. We went there, I managed to pull together a win, a shutout over Norway. I got to represent Canada. And then we finished fourth in the tournament but I did get to play the bronze medal game and we lost to Russia. That was tough.
Is that a game that bugs you?
No, not really. It did but not anymore. The way the tournament worked was we played a late semi-final game against the States (they lost), and then an early game the next day. So, it was tough and I thought I played okay and gave my team a chance. It sucks because I was really hoping to win a medal but I’ll have to wait to do that.
On that team, there are some players who are now in NHL—most noteworthy, Morgan Reilly of the Maple Leafs.
I actually roomed with Morgan Reilly so we lived together for a couple of weeks. It was actually really cool, he is a great guy. I’m not shaking my head over him being in the NHL right now because he was a great player. It was just an amazing experience.
I have to ask you about the goalie fight you got into a couple weeks ago. What happened there?
I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t win the fight. The other guy had a few inches and a couple pounds on me. It is what it is. I’m not a guy to go around and try to break rules but it is part of the game and it happens every once in a while – not something I’m going to look back on and regret. I’ll always look back on it and be happy that I did it.
The Petes have struggled during the years you’ve been here. Do you regret the mediocrity of the team while you’ve been here?
Well, I don’t have control over everything. I just have control over myself so I couldn’t have been happier spending the last five years here. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend it anywhere else. At the end of the day, I get to come to the rink everyday and work hard to hopefully have a bright future in hockey and help the team win some games.
I know you want to play pro hockey but I’d like to know: if that doesn’t work out, what could you see yourself doing?
I’ve grown up playing the drums. I wouldn’t mind giving that a shot. There are a lot of things I could see myself doing and if it’s what I want to do, I’m kind of the guy who will do what it takes to make it happen.