American Hockey League

Thurkauf, father get to enjoy first days in NHL

Marcus Decurtins has spent enough time in the aviation industry to know anything can happen when it comes to travel, let alone of the international variety. 

So when the retired engineer got the call that his son, Blue Jackets forward Calvin Thurkauf, was called up for the first time Friday and might make his NHL debut Saturday in Nashville, Decurtins wasn’t fazed by how the far the travel would be from his home in Zug, Switzerland, to central Tennessee. 

But he also knew time was not on his side if he was going to make it to Nashville by opening faceoff. And in the end, Decurtins did get to the Tennessee capital on Saturday — just around 10 p.m., or right when the Blue Jackets game against the Predators was ending and& Thurkauf was leaving the ice after his first NHL game. 

“At the end of the day it was a weather problem at Heathrow,” he said of the London airport. “If they have too high of winds, they reduce the number of flights per hour. So we were an hour waiting on the ground in Zurich before we were allowed to fly, then we were in a holding pattern for a half hour. By the time I got off the airplane in Heathrow, my flight (to Nashville) had already left.” 

He ended up going from Heathrow to New York City to Nashville, but once there, even though he missed the game, another travel related snafu proved to be a good thing for Decurtins and Thurkauf. 

The Blue Jackets were unable to fly straight back to Columbus after the game as had been planned and had to stay the night in Nashville, so father and son were able to share a postgame meal and a “big hug,” as Decurtins said. 

And then, Monday night, Decurtins did get the chance to see his son play an NHL game. Rather than immediately return to Switzerland, he flew to Columbus in case Thurkauf would have a crack at another game. Though the 22-year-old was sent down to AHL Cleveland on Sunday, the Blue Jackets’ trade Monday of forward Sonny Milano meant a 12th forward was required, so Thurkauf was back in Columbus in time for the team’s game vs. Ottawa.  

From section 115 in Nationwide Arena, his dad was able to watch things this time around. 

“It was awesome,” Thurkauf said. “It was great to see him after the game. I was happy that he was able to watch me play in the NHL and live out my dream. I really appreciate his effort to make it out to the first game. Sadly it didn’t happen, but at least he got to watch the first home game.” 

Born in Montreal but a resident of Switzerland since 1986, Decurtins did not travel with the team to Minnesota and is headed back to his European home Wednesday. Still, it was an experience of a lifetime to be able to see his son play at the highest level. 

“I’m happy for him,” Decurtins said. “He has a chance to really realize what he wanted to do. Basically, all I can do is watch and enjoy it, needle him a little bit about certain things, and when he comes home on the holidays, I play squash with him and I beat his ass.” 

The last line was delivered with a laugh — and it is true; “He beats be most of the time,” Thurkauf admitted — but the pride coming from Decurtins was clear as he stood in the seating bowl of Nationwide Arena on Monday night. 

The debut has been a long time coming, as Thurkauf has climbed the ranks since first taking the ice in Zug as a kid. He worked his way up through the local youth teams before moving to Canada in 2015 to play major junior hockey. Thurkauf turned heads with Kelowna of the WHL, with his size, speed and scoring touch earning him the chance to be drafted by the Blue Jackets in the seventh round in 2016, and after two years and 115 points in 121 games with the Rockets, he began his pro career on 2017. 

He had a solid first year at age 20 with Cleveland, posting 11 goals and 24 points in 75 games, but last season was marred by injury, first a shoulder issue that kept him out at the start of the season and then a broken leg that cost him most of the campaign. Thurkauf finished with just two goals in 26 games.  

This year, he’s found his game again with the Monsters, as Thurkauf posted a 9-16-25 line in 47 games before getting the call to the Blue Jackets. He was particularly hot at the time of the recall, earning seven goals and 15 points in his last 19 games with Cleveland. 

“I don’t know what it is. I lost a couple of teeth before Christmas. Maybe that was the reason I’m putting up some points,” he joked. “I think it’s just my overall game, I’ve stepped up my compete level, which they’ve always been asking me to do. They’ve been working hard with me. I appreciate what the coaches down in Cleveland are doing. They’re doing a great job with us young guys in developing us, and I think you can see the benefits of that.” 

That production earned him a callup, something Thurkauf described as the culmination of a lifelong dream as well as a “surreal moment.” The fact that’s been able to share it with his father half a world away from home has added to the whole thing.  

“I’m real proud of him,” Decurtins said.  

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