During a joyous occasion in 2001 at the Pepsi Center, Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote was being interviewed at his locker stall when 2-year-old Callan Foote approached his dad for a congratulatory hug. The interview continued, as did the hug.
The Avs had just defeated the New Jersey Devils in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, and Adam Foote couldn’t let go of the moment with his first-born son.
Sixteen years later, the former Avalanche captain will share a similar moment with Callan, who now goes by Cal. A 6-foot-4, 215-pound defenseman of his father’s ilk, Cal is all but certain to hear his name called in the first round of the NHL draft at the United Center in Chicago. He’s rated 12th among draft-eligible North American skaters, and third among defenseman.
He is exactly what the Avalanche need — a possible franchise defenseman who is effective in all three zones — but probably not worthy of fourth overall, the Avs’ first pick. However, Cal is bound to be selected sooner than his father, who went No. 22 to the Quebec Nordiques in 1989.
“I know both of my parents are going to be proud,” Cal said recently from Denver. “They’re going to be excited, like my brother and the rest of the family. I know they’re going to be excited about what lies ahead.”
Cal, a product of the Littleton Hawks (Double-A) and Colorado Thunderbirds (Triple-A), recently completed his second season with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League, and his first with younger brother Nolan Foote on the team. Nolan, a 16-year-old forward, was the Rockets’ youngest player who contributed 19 goals and 35 points in 52 games. Cal had 57 points (51 assists) in 71 games.
“It was unreal. It was special for not only him and I, but my parents,” Cal said of playing with Nolan, a possible first-round NHL pick in 2019. “First time we’ve played hockey together. He had a great year and I’m excited for what he has to offer next year.”
The Footes will likely play together in Kelowna again next season — unless the team that drafts Cal has different ideas.
“My goal is to develop as much as I can and try to improve on my weaknesses and raise my game,” Cal said. “You want to make the next level as a kid but I might not be ready to make that jump. I want to be back in Kelowna; I’m excited for our year up there and playing with my brother again.”
Adam Foote declined to talk about his son and the draft besides saying, “it’s Cal’s time and I’ve decided not to be interviewed by media until after he has been drafted.”
Cal said he interviewed with all 31 teams, including the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, but didn’t meet with any team twice. With the Avalanche, he interviewed with general manager Joe Sakic’s advisors. Sakic wasn’t in the room, he said.
“It was cool for me,” Foote said of his meeting with the Avalanche. “I grew up, obviously, a fan of them for many years. It was special to be in the room with them.”
Foote is the latest NHL product of the Thunderbirds, who previously developed alums Seth Jones (Columbus Blue Jackets), Jaccob Slavin (Carolina Hurricanes), Gustav Olofsson (Minnesota Wild) and Brandon Carlo (Boston Bruins). Thunderbirds director and 16-under coach Angelo Ricci, a former University of Denver forward, coached each of those players.
“Cal has the potential to be right up there with all of those players,” Ricci said. “One thing I always continue to stress is all these young men didn’t rush the process. They each took their time and allowed the proper development process to work for them. It’s really great to see. I am so proud of these guys. And another special piece of it is all these guys have worn a ‘C’ or ‘A’ for me, which speaks volumes about their character.”
Adam Foote coached both his boys with the Thunderbirds.
“I remember watching the old Thunderbirds practices and seeing guys like Carlo out there,” Cal said. “He was always a guy I looked up to, especially being a late (month) birthday and going to the WHL. And I played with Slavin’s younger brother, Josiah, and (Jaccob) is obviously having a lot of success. It’s cool to see. And Olofsson, I got the chance to skate with him a couple times. It’s just cool to see those guys have success at the next level and try to be like them.”
Cal Foote isn’t trying to be like his father, a rugged defensive-defenseman who amassed 1,534 penalty minutes in 1,154 NHL games. He’s not as ‘mean’ as his father. But he has more skills. His strongest attribute?
“My hockey sense,” Cal said. “That’s what I’ve been using since I was pretty young, and what I hope to do as I continue my career.”
Said Ricci: “He has a great stick, defends well, makes a terrific first pass. In my opinion, his greatest attribute is his hockey brain. His understanding and feel for the game is pretty special.”