Last summer, Spencer Foo was a free agent invite to Calgary Flames development camp. He did exactly zero interviews with local media. This summer, he’s in camp again; this time, he’s here as arguably the team’s highest profile free agent addition after a monster junior year with the Union College Dutchmen.
Following fitness testing, he held court with local media.
Foo has had an interesting 2016-17 season. After the Flames’ development camp last summer, he returned to school for his junior year and became one of the ECAC’s most productive players – and immediately one of the hottest commodities among undrafted NCAA players. His signing with the Flames to a two-year entry level contract raised a few eyebrows because the Flames seemingly never land big-name college free agents, let alone those born and raised in Edmonton and who pretended to be Doug Weight while playing mini-sticks growing up. Foo shared that the hometown factor wasn’t as important as opportunity.
“I don’t think as much as other people might think,” said Foo. “When it comes down to it, the NHL’s a business. It might be your favourite team growing up, but they don’t see you as that, right? You’re just another player for them and you really have to go where you’re wanted the most and where you think you’re gonna have success. For that reason, it wasn’t as big a factor as other people may think.”
(Foo added later in the scrum: “I wanted to play in Canada at the end of the day, so that was a bit of a factor. And being close to home but not right at home where there’s all those added distractions helps, too.”)
Through luck and happenstance, Foo was assigned his old college number (15) by the Flames. The bit of familiarity may counter a bit of the anxiety triggered by the new challenge of pro hockey, particularly leaving his economics degree three-quarters finished (though he plans on finishing it) and leaving Union College just as his brother Parker (a Chicago Blackhawks draft pick) joins as a freshman. He noted the decision to leave school when he did was a tough one.
“That’s definitely a tough decision,” said Foo. “Because he committed early in my freshman year and that’s what I looked forward to for quite awhile, but at the end of the day, again, it’s a business, and you’ve got to be selfish and do what’s best for yourself. We’re hoping that maybe we’ll get to play professional together at some point, but at the end of the day you’ve just got to go with what’s best for you.”
Typically, college free agents sign immediately after their team is booted out of the NCAA Championship tournament. It was unusual when Mark Jankowski took a couple weeks to sign with the Flames in the spring of 2016. It was downright unheard of in hockey circles for Foo to take the better part of three months to decide his future. He believes taking the time to get things right was the best decision.
“Coming in with the expansion draft, there’s so many different things going on in the league and players are moving around everywhere,” said Foo. “I knew right at the end of the year that I wanted to finish that last year of school as well, that impacted it, too. It just kinda came together in just waiting. I know a lot of people think I dragged it out a little bit, but I was just looking to give myself the best opportunity coming in.”
The dust has settled and Foo is part of the Flames organization. He seems extremely relieved to have all the decisions behind him and seems excited to get onto the ice and keep the momentum from his college season going. The Flames are fairly lean on offense-generating right-shot forwards and a strong training camp could land him on the NHL roster when the season opens in October.