Colorado Avalanche fans would likely hope to forget everything about that ill-fated 2016-17 season. There were not a lot of bright spots that year on the way to a 48-point campaign but one feel-good moment happened in the midst of all the defeats.
Samuel Henley was called up to the Avalanche face the Columbus Blue Jackets in a game at the Pepsi Center on December 1st, 2016. He received a scant 5:18 of ice time but only needed one shot to sneak the puck past Sergei Bobrovsky to tie the game at two goals apiece. Henley’s turn around fire at the blue line assisted by Tyson Barrie was his only shot attempt of the game as well. The Avalanche would go on to lose that game 3-2 and promptly sent Henley back down to the San Antonio Rampage the next day.
The fact that Henley received a NHL game at all was a surprise to many. He went undrafted out of the QMJHL and signed an Entry Level Contract to begin after his 20-year old season and Memorial Cup appearance as captain of the Val-d’Or Foreurs in 2014.
Henley, in the Avalanche system with the Lake Erie Monsters and San Antonio Rampage, was mostly a bottom six center and left wing who played minutes defensively, stuck up for his teammates and provided leadership. Through three years in the AHL he scored just 35 points over 185 games.
When Henley received the call the Avalanche were looking for someone who could fill that bottom six hard forechecking role. They finally looked to one of their younger players on ELC and decided to give Henley a chance in that third year of his contract. He did as was expected but the goal was a huge moment and reward for a player who had worked so hard from humble beginnings.
What happened after those three years, and the one game NHL appearance, was even more surprising as Henley left the game of hockey. He returned home to Val-d’Or to help his family take care of his ailing father who passed away in 2019.
The lasting memory of Henley’s one NHL game and goal was something the family can always share as well as Avalanche fans to remember in the darkest of times there’s always a glimmer.