Chase De Leo Back Where It All StartedMar 19, 2019
Southern California Native Returns to Winnipeg where his Professional Career Began with the Moose
La Mirada, Calif. isn’t your typical hockey breeding ground. But for Gulls forward Chase De Leo it’s where he called home until the age of 15 and learned to love the game. As a kid he attended Anaheim Ducks games in their inaugural season 25 years ago and the dream to play in the NHL started then.
His Southern California home is a world away from the hockey hotbed of Winnipeg, Manitoba and the home to the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets and AHL’s Manitoba Moose. But that’s where his dream became a reality.
Following his third of four seasons in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks, De Leo was drafted by Winnipeg in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL Draft. Two seasons later he made his NHL debut for the Jets on Mar. 20, 2016 vs. the team he grew up watching, the Anaheim Ducks. He would appear in two games with the Jets in 2015-16 and spend the majority of it in his first pro season with the Moose.
“It’s special. It’s every kids dream growing up to play in the NHL,” said De Leo prior to his first game back at Bell MTS Place last Sunday. “I know I wanted to be an NHL player from a very young age. Being able to make that dream come true here and have my parents fly up and watch it here was a special night.”
De Leo spent his first three seasons with Manitoba where he earned 107 points (45G/62A) in 211 games. He also led the Moose in 2018 postseason scoring and assists in nine Calder Cup Playoff games to conclude his career in the great white north. His career path would change on June 30 last summer when he was acquired by Anaheim in exchange for fellow Southern California native Nic Kerdiles.
Reflecting on his time there brings a smile to his face, but in his first return to where it all began for two games against the Manitoba Moose, De Leo is all business.
“It was a special time here. I got to play with some longtime friends which you normally don’t get to do. I enjoyed that but it’s all part of the game and I’m here to get some points and get some wins. I’m looking forward to the games. They treated me well while I was here but there’s no friends on the ice, that’s for sure.”
Playing for the organization he grew up supporting is a dream come true. Yet, he is further motivated to get back to the NHL and make an impact for the Ducks when the time comes. In his first season with the Gulls, he has scored a career high 45 points to date, surpassing the 40 he collected as a rookie with Manitoba. He currently leads the Gulls in assists with a career high 28 and is second on the club in points.
“I think any time you get a fresh start it’s refreshing. I want to be here,” said De Leo on being a part of the Ducks organization. “I think when someone really wants to be somewhere…I’m home. Everybody wants to be able to play at home. Every professional athlete’s dream is to be able to play for the team they grew up watching as a kid.”
“That’s a big part of it. Getting to see my family a bunch helps me mentally.”
He’s been recalled by the Ducks twice this season, but has yet to don the sweater in a regular season game. Despite that, he’s continued to push along with his dream undoubtedly in front of him.
“I love it. This is the place I want to be. It’s my hometown team, I grew up watching the Anaheim Ducks, even going to some Gulls games when I was younger,” added De Leo. “It’s where I want to be. I’m a California kid and I want to help grow hockey in California. It’s getting bigger and bigger and it’s fun to be a part of it. “
De Leo has been a part of it. From the numerous community events he attends, practicing with local youth teams as a guest instructor to using his love of animals to help veterans be paired with service dogs, he’s helping grow the name of the Gulls and Ducks in Southern California.
He’s also helping the Gulls down the stretch with less than a dozen games on the schedule and a playoff spot on the line.