When Nashville Predators prospect defenseman Anthony Bitetto made the decision to leave Northeastern University following his sophomore year, both he and the Predators thought it was the right time for him to become a professional hockey player.
Bitetto joined the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League during their playoff run in the spring of 2012. He appeared in one playoff game for the Admirals that season.
Looking forward to his first full professional season in 2012-13, Bitetto, a 6th round pick of the Predators in 2010, was thrown a couple of curves last year.
Since college players do not attend NHL training camps while they are enrolled in school, last fall was going to be Bitetto’s first chance to skate with the Predators during training camp. When the NHL decided to lock out its players prior to the scheduled start of camp last September, it meant the cancellation of camp. It also meant that younger defensemen on two-way contracts who might have had a shot at making the Predators in camp were reassigned to the Admirals, causing Bitetto to eventually be sent to the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL.
“The lockout was kind of a bummer,” Bitetto said. “I had to go through a lot of adversity.”
While he was still in Milwaukee, the Island Park, New York native received a call that really shook him. Hurricane Sandy had struck the New York City area and caused a significant amount of destruction in the area.
“I got a phone call from my mom and she was like, ‘There is a river down the block,’” he said. “When I went home for Christmas, it was like a bomb went off. Everything was mangled, docks were everywhere, boats were everywhere – it was pretty wild to see, and very sad that I had to see.”
His parents’ house is slowly being repaired, but they are fortunate, as some houses in the area had to be abandoned completely.
Following the resolution of the NHL’s lockout in January, Bitetto was recalled to Milwaukee, and following that recall, the coaching staff told him that they needed him to be a big part of the team. A late-season injury put him on the sidelines though.
Now just days away from the start of Nashville’s 2013 training camp, Bitetto is healthy and excited about finally getting the chance to take the ice and compete with the team.
“When you come to the main camp, your goal is to make the team,” he said. “From there, you want to do the next best goal. If I am going to be in Milwaukee, I want to be the best player in Milwaukee.”
Bitetto and some fellow young players got a jump-start last week when they were in town for a quick practice before heading off to Florida for three weekend games against prospects from the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Boston Bruins. Against the Lightning, Bitetto netted a pair of power-play goals.
He knows that the Predators’ roster is already pretty well set to start the season, but he also knows that this camp will be an opportunity to make an impression on the team’s coaching and management staffs.
“You have to worry about yourself,” Bitetto said. "If you play well, they will notice it somehow. The best part about it is you have to earn it. Here is the opportunity, so you have to make the best of it.”