Wild assistant general manager Tom Thompson saw O'Sullivan play on Nov. 5 and scribbled this in his scouting book: "More into the game than I've ever seen him. Skating is now powerful as well as balanced. Had three NHL assists. Very good on faceoffs."
More of the same kind of stuff - but here it is anyway...
No looking back
Minnesota Wild prospect Patrick O'Sullivan is focused on his promising future, not the troubling past involving his abusive father.
BY BRIAN MURPHY
Patrick carries the O'Sullivan name, not the burden.
American teenager, Canadian icon, dazzling NHL prospect — Patrick O'Sullivan identifies with them all. But he refuses to be labeled a victim or imprisoned by a past dictated by an abusive father.
Over the next 11 days on the international stage of the world junior hockey championship, O'Sullivan is poised to rewrite the troubling storyline that has defined his prolific career in the Ontario Hockey League and shape his future with the Minnesota Wild.
He has put the world on notice that he has moved on in hockey, in life, and he is thriving at both.
"People can't associate me with my father any longer. I'm Patrick O'Sullivan. I play hockey," he said this week. "I just wanted to play hockey, and someone was trying to prevent me from doing that. I did what I had to do, and it's worked out for the best."
O'Sullivan is in Grand Forks, N.D., as alternate captain on a U.S. team that is defending its gold medal on home ice against the world's top under-20 junior teams.
He is at the top of his game, a scoring wizard and emerging leader for the OHL's Mississauga IceDogs whose stock is rising swiftly in the Wild organization. Only the NHL lockout prevented the 19-year-old center from competing for a job at the team's training camp this fall.
"It was pretty disappointing. I thought I had a pretty good shot to make the team, and at least would have liked the chance," he said. "But you can't control those things."
Self-determination is among the life lessons O'Sullivan has learned in almost three years since he last spoke to his father, John O'Sullivan, after a final, violent clash that culminated years of physical and mental abuse.
Patrick pressed assault charges against his father after being punched and kicked following an IceDogs game in Ottawa on Jan. 4, 2002. It touched off a series of legal skirmishes that landed John O'Sullivan in jail for about a month, tore apart his marriage and almost derailed Patrick's aspiring career.
Cathie O'Sullivan obtained a restraining order in Canada that forbids John O'Sullivan from coming within one kilometer of their son and divorced him a year later, moving with Patrick's younger sisters to her native North Carolina.
Before the family split from John O'Sullivan, Cathie feared her son might quit hockey. No way, Patrick said.
"I love the game. It's what has gotten me through everything through the course of my life," he said. "I love the game too much to quit because of someone like that."
The O'Sullivan saga became fodder for newspaper stories and television documentaries in the United States and Canada about the damage overbearing hockey fathers can inflict with fists and fury.
It reached a zenith leading up to the 2003 NHL draft in Nashville, Tenn., where O'Sullivan was projected to be a first-round pick only to watch 55 players precede him to the podium.
Adding to the tension was John O'Sullivan's presence at the arena, where NHL security personnel were assigned to guard Patrick, his mom and siblings.
Against that backdrop, the Wild watched as wary teams passed on one of the most talented players in Canadian junior hockey.
"I had a gut feeling about Patrick," said Wild assistant general manager Tom Thompson. "He has huge upside, and I trusted our scouts on his abilities as a hockey player. But when we interviewed him, I thought this was an intelligent, proud individual who overcame off-ice obstacles that were not of his making.
"When you combine all those factors, we were willing to take a risk that could have high returns."
O'Sullivan's skills have been paying huge dividends for Mississauga ever since the franchise drafted him No. 1 overall as a 16-year-old in 2001. He averaged 37 goals and 85 points over three full seasons, and ranked fourth in the OHL in scoring with 14 goals among 42 points through 28 games this season.
During O'Sullivan's tenure, the IceDogs have evolved from a team that managed only 10 victories in his rookie season to become the reigning Eastern Conference champions. Along the way, O'Sullivan has eliminated many of his defensive liabilities and become the go-to guy on special teams and for pivotal faceoffs at both ends of the ice.
IceDogs coach Greg Gilbert inherited O'Sullivan when he took over in August 2002, and selected him captain this season.
"It's something he's definitely earned. He's been through so much and he's been here long enough to deal with any bad situation," Gilbert said. "He does not accept mediocrity. You can see it in the way he reacts and the way he plays. He's the first one to step up and address the situation. He doesn't want to lose. He plays to win."
The honor was not lost on O'Sullivan, whose perseverance and growth has paralleled that of the franchise.
"That organization has been through a lot," he said. "I stayed through the tough times when we won 10 games our first year. To see the success we had last year, I was excited for myself, for the fans and for the city. I couldn't ask for anything else the way I've been treated there."
This is O'Sullivan's third world junior tour with Team USA. Last year in Helsinki, Finland, he was the hero, scoring a pair of third-period goals to lead a 4-3 comeback victory over Canada that gave the United States its first world championship gold medal.
"It was definitely the biggest hockey moment I've ever had," he said. "The way we won, coming back against Canada, made it so much better. I don't think I'll really understand everything we accomplished until I'm a little bit older."
In the 18 months since the Wild drafted him, John O'Sullivan has sent several letters to his son, who has not read them or responded. Cathie, through acquaintances, heard her ex-husband lives in Michigan and attended Patrick's games in Saginaw and suburban Detroit last month.
She has protective orders that are valid in Canada and North Carolina. Cathie O'Sullivan, who will travel to the tournament next week, steels herself for the possibility that her ex-husband might show up in Grand Forks this week. "It's a free country," she said.
Patrick O'Sullivan has moved beyond scanning arena seats and living in fear. With his amateur career winding down, too much is at stake for the future to dwell about the past.
Hockey is good. Life is better. What a wonderful world.
"My life's at a point where everything's going smoothly on and off the ice. I'm excited every day to be playing hockey, playing a game that I love," he said. "And I have no worries other than the normal things kids my age deal with. That's so much more than I've ever had before."
O'SULLIVAN'S HUMOROUS COMMERCIAL COULD RAISE IRE OF OWNER
BY RANDY SPORTAK, CALGARY SUN
With the world juniors in full swing, cue the comedy roll. Try this one on
Patrick O'Sullivan, the Team U.S.A. forward who toils for the Mississauga
IceDogs, is featured in a radio commercial in Toronto in which he says, "I
may not be much of a kisser but I sure know how to score."
Making the promo even funnier is the fact he's currently dating the daughter
of IceDogs part-owner Mario Forgione.
O'Sullivan's mom, Cathie, relayed to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: "He said,
'Mom, if this doesn't work out, you can find me in Lake Ontario with cement
skates on.' "