LOS ANGELES — When the Blackhawks traded Marc-Andre Fleury hours before Monday’s deadline, Collin Delia was recalled from Rockford and GM Kyle Davidson was quick to say he would be Chicago’s backup for the remainder of the season behind Kevin Lankinen.
Delia then had to pack his bags and join the Blackhawks at the airport for their upcoming three-game road trip, which was fittingly on the West Coast. Anaheim and Los Angeles, specifically, feel like home for Delia, who grew up in Rancho Cucamonga — about a 40-minute drive from both arenas.
On Wednesday, Delia found out that he would be starting the next day in Los Angeles for the first time in his NHL career. His family was so excited about the call-up, though, that they even made the trip to Anaheim the night before.
"They weren’t missing that," a smiling Delia said. "It’s not too far of a drive. They planned to come to both."
So what did he do in his start on Thursday? Oh, just a casual 43-save performance and a 3-for-3 mark in the shootout to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 win over the Kings against one of the goaltenders he grew up watching.
"It's hard to put it into words," Delia said. "Just really cool to be from this area, grow up watching Kings, Ducks, especially Jonathan Quick, and to get to compete with some really good company and come out victorious. Definitely a memorable experience."
Delia’s teammates may have been just as excited as him. After Alex DeBrincat scored the game-winner in the shootout, the entire bench mobbed Delia at the other side of the rink.
"I think guys knew how important that was for him," DeBrincat said. "We tried to battle hard, but he came up with a couple huge saves and really kept us in it."
"That was really special," Delia said of the celebration. "It's cool, I'm playing for them, they're playing for me, and that reciprocity, it's really cool. Special moment for sure."
As the head coach of Rockford and now the interim coach in Chicago, Derek King knows what kind of journey it's been for Delia over the last few years. It made Thursday's win a little extra special in King's heart to see that for Delia.
"I was so thrilled for Deals," King said. "Awesome. Good for him. He’s gone through a lot. Just nice for him. California boy winning in California, in front of his family, awesome. Happy for the guy. I think you could see his smile when he came out of here. You know how happy he is."
While Lankinen is expected to get the bulk of the starts down the stretch, Delia is trying to treat any start he can get as an opportunity to prove he can be a regular NHL goaltender, whether that's in Chicago or somewhere else as he prepares to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
"It's NHL games, it's NHL experience, it's really important to me," Delia said. "I want to make sure I handle myself professionally and I want to win for this team. We may be statistically out of it, but that doesn't mean we're not going to compete every game. We want to win. This is our job and we take pride in that."