V ic Bartley’s weekend started fairly inconspicuously.
Actually, wait…it was the exact opposite of that.
On Friday night at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, video began on the jumbotron and the sounds of “Gangnam Style” began to ring out through the arena. However, instead of shots of the crowd or the actual music video from Psy, the Milwaukee defenseman appeared on the screen and, well, this happened:
The video started a pretty full weekend for Bartley. After the video played and Bartley picked up a couple of points in Milwaukee’s two weekend wins, he boarded a plane to Providence, Rhode Island, for the 2013 AHL All Star Classic.
For Bartley, it was both a step into the future and a step into the past.
Vic Bartley has almost literally traveled around the world to get to where he is today.
He played started his path to the top with the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League. When draft day came, Bartley’s name wasn’t called, so he played out his eligibility in the WHL. In his second to last season in the WHL, he was traded to the Regina Pats and named captain the following season.
At the conclusion of his junior career, Bartley signed a tryout contract with the Providence Bruins.
Bartley, a defenseman with a fair bit of an offensive side, did not register a point in his 10-game stint with Providence and finished a -6. The Bruins opted not to sign him.
“I finished my 20-year-old season with the Regina Pats and I was called up to Providence,” Bartley said. “I didn’t happen to play my best hockey at the time. It was a learning experience for me. I realized how much I needed to grow and how much I needed to improve to be able to play at this level. It was a real eye-opener. Like I’ve said, over the years, each and every step I’ve taken has really helped me out. Especially being here, this was my first wake up call to realizing, ‘You know what? You’re not ready to be here. Here’s what you’ve got to do.’ Over the last couple of years I’ve been really dedicated, really bearing down. Now I am where I am today because of one of those moments.”
Bartley split time in the following season between the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL and the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers before a tricep injury ended his season prematurely.
The next season, Bartley took a different step, heading off to Sweden to play for Rogle.
“I played (in Providence) at the age of 21,” Bartley said. “I’d been in the ECHL and the (AHL). Things weren’t working out, so I went over to Europe to try to refine my game and tune things up. It did great things for me and AHL teams took notice and they gave me an AHL contract with Nashville.”
In 2011, after Bartley had racked up 34 points in Sweden, the Nashville Predators signed Bartley to a two-year entry-level deal.
“Over the last year-and-a-half, I’ve really fine-tuned my skills and really think that I have a chance to crack the NHL this season,” Bartley said. “I think every step that I’ve taken has really helped me out in the long-run. The attitude of never giving up, just keep going and everything makes a difference.”
Bartley had an immediate impact in his first season with Nashville’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. While with the Milwaukee Admirals in his season and a half, Bartley has appeared in 116 games and registered 30 points.
When the NHL lockout ended, Bartley was named to the Predators opening night roster. However, he was hurt, never appeared on the ice and was sent back to Milwaukee.
“It is what it is,” Bartley said. “They have seven healthy d-men on the roster. There’s absolutely no reason to carry eight guys, so I might as well come back down to the minors and play.”
While having a taste of the big time and not quite making it stung a bit, Bartley got some good news on the way back down.
“When they told me I was getting sent down, they also told me I made the All Star team,too, so that kind of healed the burn a bit,” Bartley said.
For Bartley, his young career had already come full-circle. Four years earlier, he could barely cut it in the AHL. This time, he came back as one of the best in the league.
“Being recognized by my coaches and my peers among the league is huge,” Bartley said. “It shows that your hard work and dedication has paid off and that’s the path you want to stay on. You just want to continue to do it.”
On Monday night, Bartley’s big moment finally came. His Western Conference squad emerged as the 7-6 victors over the Eastern Conference. Bartley put himself on the board with a risky pass in the first period that set up a breakaway for the Texas Stars’ Matt Fraser.
“If it was a real game, I don’t know if I would have made that play, but it’s an All Star Game,” Bartley said.
Real game or not, Bartley was glad to take home the win.
“It’s a little bit of conference pride,” Bartley said. “East vs. West and West takes it all.”
“Coming here and meeting all of these guys was phenomenal,” Bartley added. “The fact that the Western Conference got the win was huge.”
For Bartley, he hope the next step in his journey is Nashville. While the sign in Milwaukee says “The Road To Nashville Runs Through Milwaukee”, for Bartley, that road has also run through Saskatchewan, Rhode Island, New York, Utah and Sweden.
Midway through the Skills Competition on Sunday night, “Gangnam Style” came on over the speakers in the arena. As soon as the music started, Bartley took a knee.
“I thought about it for second, ‘This might come up on the big screen here,’ but I didn’t. I just sat there and let it go.”
However, he did not rule out the possibility that a spontaneous Bartley dance party might come in the future.
“It hasn’t quite gotten around the Internet yet, but maybe one day when it does, I’ll do it. But not yet.”
Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua