Witness Patrick's older brother, Steve, 21, who turned down a scholarship at North Dakota to play for Brandon, Manitoba, one of the top Canadian junior teams, because he was told the move would propel him directly into the NHL. Sure enough, the Buffalo Sabres made Steve their first pick in 1980, but since then he has been shuttled among Buffalo, Brandon and Rochester of the American Hockey League. "Right now, Steve says if he had it to do over again, he would go to college," says James.
Grand Forks, the original home of Cream of Wheat and one of the few places in the world that have legalized gambling with a $2 maximum (in casinos and hotel lounges), is a grand place to play college hockey. As the only Division I sport in the state, hockey outdraws every other sport at the school. Gasparini, who became coach four years ago, teaches a rough brand of hockey, emphasizing defense, and Patrick practices what the coach preaches. "James has extreme quickness and a tremendous knowledge of the game," says Gasparini. "He can make a play in open ice, and when there's a lot of traffic, as well."
"I can handle the puck and skate with it good," says Patrick, "but that shouldn't take away from my defensive play. At the Junior Worlds, Gord and I had only one goal scored on us in seven games."
"At first, people couldn't figure out why he was drafted in the first round," says Goalie Darren Jensen. "Some said, 'Maybe we've been gypped. This guy isn't so great.' But he does everything to a T. He makes it look so easy."
Sometimes Patrick doesn't even have to show up to be recognized. For finishing second in the RPI Invitational, which was held during the Christmas holidays while Patrick was at the Junior Worlds, the Sioux were given a wristwatch. One watch for the whole team. Gasparini let the players decide what to do with it. By season's end, they had: It went to the player with the best plus-minus total—Patrick.
Evidently, they hadn't been gypped.
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