Courtesy of the Columbus Blue Jackets via NHL.com
On October 12, Adam Fantilli not only turned 19 years old, but also made his NHL debut with the Columbus Blue Jackets against the Philadelphia Flyers. And, in terms of birthdays, this is one that Fantilli will never forget.
A Small Text That Will Last a Lifetime
Fantilli’s birthday started with the present to last a lifetime: a text message forwarded from Wayne Gretzky, who wished him good luck in his NHL debut and told him to enjoy it. “That was probably the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me,” Fantilli said in an interview.
Love from Home
The Blue Jackets knew how long-awaited and important this day was for #11, and they wanted to make it as special as it could be. So, they brought him some love from home with an emotional video from his closest friends, family and former teammates. The Blue Jackets collected video messages from important people in his life, and showed it to him on game day. You can see Fantilli’s birthday video and reaction using the link below:
Fantilli heard from Gavin Brindley, a former University of Michigan teammate, whom Columbus selected in the second round (No. 34) of the 2023 draft; Seamus Casey, another former Michigan teammate, whom the New Jersey Devils selected in the second round (No. 46) in the 2022 NHL Draft; and his brother, Luca, who also plays at Michigan. He heard from Dan and Mariola Andrusky, his grandparents, and Giuliano and Julia Fantilli, his parents.
The Rookie Lap
Fantilli arrived for the game, walking down the blue carpet in the plaza outside Nationwide Arena, smiling and high-fiving the fans lining each side of the ropes during the opening night festivities.
He took his rookie lap without a helmet. Well, laps, actually. His teammates took a while before joining him for the warmup, really letting him settle in on the ice as a Blue Jacket. Though he’ll get fined for breaking the NHL’s warm-up helmet protocol, like other young superstars such as Connor Bedard, Fantilli’s helmet-less rookie lap got attention from people all around the league, and made it a lap he’ll never forget. Fans stood against the glass all around the Columbus end and held signs, some of them wishing him a happy birthday.
“The first lap was pretty cool,” Fantilli said in an interview. “Right when the puck dropped, I kind of settled in. I was able to relax there and just play hockey. I was happy to be able to do that. A lot of external stuff was going on, but I was just happy to play hockey and get the first one in the books.”
Courtesy of Michigan Hockey via Facebook
A Day Full of Firsts
Adam Fantilli’s NHL debut didn’t end quite the way he wanted, with the Blue Jackets dropping a 4-2 decision to Philadelphia, but it took just three shifts for the rookie center to earn his first NHL point when he assisted on Jake Bean’s goal.
Fantilli earned his first NHL point on his first NHL shot. He fired from the left wing, creating a rebound for defenseman Jake Bean to tie the score 1-1 at 8:24 of the first period. The sold-out crowd of 18,614 fans roared, and the cannon sounded.
“I just wanted to get it off and get it on the net,” Fantilli said when asked about this point. “It wasn’t the best shot ever, but it ended up going off the pad and right to ‘Beaner’s’ area there, and I was really happy for him to be able to pop that one.”
Bally Sports Ohio found Fantilli’s parents in the stands after his first point. You can imagine the intense emotions. You can see the interview below:
“It’s absolutely incredible, and to do it here at home in front of these amazing fans is … It’s unbelievable,” his dad, Giuliano, said. “I’m overwhelmed.”
“It’s just incredible,” his mom, Julia, said. “You know what? I said to somebody today, ‘Columbus is home.’ We feel it. We’re so excited that Adam’s able to spend his 19th birthday here and we’re able to be part of this organization and this city. We love it.”
Courtesy of the NHL (Jason Mowry/Getty Images)
Ending the Night Right
In the third period, the Blue Jackets played “Birthday” by The Beatles and showed Fantilli on the scoreboard screen. The crowd was as loud as could be. Long after the game, you could still hear people singing “Happy Birthday.” The song echoed in the empty arena.
When asked in an interview to reflect on the night, Fantilli said, “Everybody dreams about stepping out there on that ice, so I was grateful to be able to do that. Not the result we wanted. A couple things we’ve got to clean up. I know we’ve got more. Yeah, overall, it was really cool to get out there.”
Adam Fantilli’s NHL debut was truly a day of firsts: his first game in the NHL, his first NHL point, and his first (and only) 19th birthday. Made special by the Columbus Blue Jackets, his family, his former teams and teammates, and all Jackets fans, October 12th, 2023 will be a day that Adam Fantilli will never, ever forget.
Keep an eye out for CBJ’s #11 this season. It’s sure to be a great one!