David Cotton came to the Carolina Hurricanes prospects development camp this week with only hockey on his mind.
That all changed Thursday night.
Cotton was flipping through TV channels when he spotted something about a shooting in Dallas. “At first I thought it was a movie or something,” he said Friday.
Cotton quickly learned it was a real-life tragedy, that five Dallas policemen had been shot and killed and others wounded by a sniper. A native of Parker, Texas, just north of Dallas, Cotton said he was shaken as he sat and watched the news reports.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “The more I watched the more chaos that started occurring. The more information I got the more my heart started racing.”
After calling his parents in Parker to check on their safety — his two brothers are away in college summer-school sessions — Cotton continued to watch the news updates, saying, “I couldn’t go to sleep with that going through my mind.”
“It really hits you hard when it’s close to home,” he said. “Everyone in my family is safe but it’s a really scary thought, that it’s happening in that general area. I wouldn’t imagine in a thousand years that would happen in Dallas.
“To everyone that was affected, I give them my condolences. Hopefully everyone will be safe soon.”
Cotton said he was aware of the downtown location of the shootings, that he has attended many Dallas Stars games at American Airlines Center.
“To only live about 35 minutes away from it, it’s a really scary thought,” he said.
Cotton, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound forward, was a sixth-round pick of the Canes in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and said he was unable to attend development camp last year because of a family matter.
Cotton, a Boston College commit, played for the Waterloo Black Hawks in the U.S. Hockey League this past season after two years at Cushing (Mass.) Academy. He had 27 goals and 42 assists in 33 games his second season at Cushing, then 15 goals and 15 assists in 48 games his rookie year in the USHL.
“It was an adjustment and the biggest thing for me is getting bigger, faster, stronger and developing my body,” he said. “I need a stronger lower body, a quicker first step.”
Cotton, who turns 19 on Saturday, called Canes development camp an “unbelievable experience” and said he has learned so much from the coaches and guest speakers.
“The biggest key here is to really enjoy it, living the moment,” he said. “Ask questions when you can and just take it all in, because this is just a glimpse of what’s to happen. Work as hard as you can and everything will fall into place.”
Cotton said he first starting paying close attention to hockey in 2006, and that he followed the Hurricanes’ march to the Stanley Cup. One lasting memory is seeing Rod Brind’Amour, the Canes’ captain in 2006, raising the Cup.
“Who can forget that?” he said, smiling.
Brind’Amour, a Canes assistant coach, has been on the PNC Arena ice this week, helping direct the camp practices. Also on hand is Glen Wesley, another of the 2006 stars and the Canes’ director of defensemen development.
“Seeing players of that magnitude, being able to meet them and talk to them, is really an incredible experience,” Cotton said.
But life has a way of interrupting the best of times and experiences. For Cotton, the tragic events of Dallas will be on his mind until he returns home to Parker.
“It really strikes you,” he said. “Here you’re kind of living out a dream. At home, it’s a whole different world that’s going on. It’s total highs and total lows, two different spectrums.”
Cotton paused for a moment, adding, “It’s really heartbreaking.”
Canes' Summerfest Celebration
Saturday, PNC Arena.
Admission and parking: free
9:15 a.m. — Equipment sale, open to public.
10-11 a.m — Prospects autograph session (wrist bands distributed to first 500 fans at 9:15)
11:15 a.m. — State of the Hurricanes discussion, general manager Ron Francis and Canes coach Bill Peters.
12-1 p.m. — Prospects scrimmage.
Additional information: www.carolinahurricanes.comCanes' Summerfest Celebration