Yesterday, the 18-year-old was watching the NHL draft on television in Queensville, Ontario, when he was stunned to hear that the Flyers had selected him at No. 29 in the first round. The Flyers dropped down nine spots in a trade earlier yesterday with Florida. Central Scouting had Downie ranked 79th.
"I couldn't believe it," Downie said. "I thought I'd be going in the second round. Sitting there with all my friends and family, we saw Philly come up and they said one of the Spitfires was taken and everyone started screaming. I'm ecstatic and still in shock."
John Downie never would have guessed his son would be a Flyer someday.
"He's probably very proud of me," Downie said, choked with tears. "This is very emotional for me."
Downie, a 5-foot-10, 192-pound right wing, scored 21 goals with 73 points for the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League last season. He's a typical Flyers pick - an agitator (179 penalty minutes) who likes to muck it up in the corners. He plays bigger than his size and showed scouts a determination to get to the net while never backing down from a challenge.
"I am a player with a lot of intensity," he said. "I love to win. I can't take losing. I show up and work hard every day. I'm the first one in the corner and first one out. . . . I like to fight, I like to score."
Flyers prospect Jeff Carter said Downie was one of the reasons Windsor upset Sault Ste. Marie in the OHL playoffs earlier this year.
Downie flew to Philadelphia on Monday and met general manager Bob Clarke and members of the Flyers' scouting staff. Downie's skating needs to improve, and he admits he needs to get a handle on his temper. He'll stay at least one more year in junior hockey. He said his hard life after his father died forced him and his brother Greg to develop a tough exterior.
"It was hard on both of us," he said. "We went to school and people would pick on us. We had no father figure in my life. My mom did an unbelievable job with us."
After Downie's father died, the family continued to live on its large farm, which had six fishing ponds. Steve and Greg played hockey on the ponds.
"Greg was better than me," Downie said. "I always wanted to beat him. My drive to win came from wanting to beat my brother."
Downie's mother drove him to practice from age 7 until he was old enough to drive himself.
"It's a mom's job," Ann Downie said. "It was fun. Hockey growing up was fun. Lot of good friends. . . . Bobby Clarke was my all-time favorite player when I was younger."
The Downies celebrated yesterday by pouring champagne for their 20 or so guests.
"This is a dream come true," Ann Downie said, crying. "His dad is watching somewhere. He'd be so proud."
Contact staff writer Tim Panaccio at 215-854-2847
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