By Jim Diamond
During a recent trip to a car dealership to purchase a car, the first in his own name, Joe Pendenza was filling out the paperwork when he came to a line that said, “Occupation.” Pendenza thought for a second, smiled, and then put down the words, “Professional Hockey Player.”
“The guy I was buying the car from was like, ‘Really, is that weird?’ and I said, “Yeah, it’s completely weird,’” Pendenza said with a laugh.
It was a moment of pride for Pendenza, who worked hard to get to the point where he could list that as his job.
A year ago, Pendenza accepted an invitation from the Nashville Predators to attend last summer’s development camp. He was heading into his senior season at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. Having not been drafted by an NHL team, Pendenza caught the eye of Nashville’s scouting staff.
As a collegian with eligibility remaining, NCAA rules prohibited Pendenza from accepting anything of value from the Predators, so all expenses like flights, hotel, and meals were on him and his family last year. That investment paid off following the conclusion of the River Hawks’ season when Pendenza inked a contract with the Milwaukee Admirals, Nashville’s top developmental affiliate.
“Last year, I was just kind of an invitee, not so much outside looking in, but I wasn’t technically part of the Predators organization,” Pendenza said. “They just wanted to get to know me some more. This year, I am right inside of it and part of the organization. I couldn’t be happier. Nashville is a great city, and I was out in Milwaukee, and that’s a great city.”
During the season, he kept close tabs on the Predators, watching many games with his NHL GameCenter Live subscription. In addition to the big club, he kept an eye on the Admirals as well as a lot of the teams that other players he met at last year’s camp played for across the hockey world.
When Pendenza signed his contract with Milwaukee, he came home to share the good news, and ask for a ride to the airport too.
“My mom was crying when I came home and told her,” Pendenza said. “I had to find someone to drive me and my mom was crying. I have to thank them a lot – my parents, my uncle Vin – they put in so much for me. I will never be able to repay all the money and time they put in, so I was more thanking them because they were just as much a part of this as I was.”
Pendenza saw action in five games with Milwaukee down the stretch of the season. When that season came to its conclusion, Pendenza went back to school to complete his academic requirements.
“The teachers at Lowell were great about it,” Pendenza said. “They knew my situation and they were completely fine with it. I was able to come back and take my finals.”
After knocking those finals out, Pendenza not only had the title of professional hockey player but college graduate as well.
“I got my degree and walked down the aisle,” he said. “Mom was happy about that also. She wanted me to get it out of the way so I could focus on being a professional hockey player.”
Following development camp, Pendenza will return home to Massachusetts, where he will continue to train to get ready for his first full professional season that kicks off this fall.