HERSHEY -- It wasn't all that long ago -- in the spring of 2006 -- when Tyler Sloan was on the golf course and his cell phone rang.
Calling was Doug Yingst, president and general manager of the Hershey Bears. Would he, Yingst asked, be interested in coming to Hershey to help fill in on the injury-riddled blue line?
Sloan wasted no time in saying yes.
The emergency recall lasted just two games, but Sloan made an impression. The following season, he was signed as a regular for the Bears.
When Sloan took the original phone call, he was on a golf course in Las Vegas, having just recently finished his season with the ECHL's Las Vegas Wranglers.
Before he left the golf course, he should have detoured to the famed strip in Las Vegas to plunk down a sizable wager on whether an ECHL defenseman would ever play in the National Hockey League.
The payoff would have come in early November. In his third full season with the Bears, Sloan was called up by the Washington Capitals, but what was expected to be just an emergency recall turned into an extended stay.
Sloan spent nearly two full months in Washington. This season, in fact, he has played more games for Washington (26) then for Hershey (23), and while playing for the Capitals had a goal and four assists and was a plus-4.
"It was a shock, that's for sure," Sloan said about the recall and the amount of time he spent in Washington.
"I think I was fortunate just the way things were going up there with injuries, I got called up and was able to stick around for two or three months or whatever it was. I was surprised how quickly it happened."
It also made him realize just how far he's come since signing with the Columbus organization in 2001.
"(The NHL) was a long ways off when I was in Las Vegas," he said. "When you're down there, obviously your next goal is the American League, not the NHL. I think the NHL goal is always on your mind, but it might be on the back burner for a while because you've got to take it a step at a time, and the next step at that time was the American League.
"But the NHL was a long shot. I think a lot of people wrote me off, thinking I would be a career minor leaguer. I proved them wrong."
As Sloan's fortunes have improved, so has his game. Sloan has always been a physical, stay-at-home defenseman, but his skating, his speed and his ability to move the puck has improved.
"It's night and day better," he said. "At that point in my career (in Las Vegas) to now, I don't think there is a comparison. It's black and white. It's a hundred times better."
And Sloan never felt out of place while skating with the Capitals.
"With the way things went, you knew you were gonna play," Sloan said. "The guys were hurt, you knew you were gonna be in the lineup every night, and when you're in the lineup every night, you're not worried about if you're gonna get sent down. You're gonna play, and you've got confidence you're gonna play.
"The longer I stayed -- and for a while I was playing with Tom Poti, which isn't too bad -- that gives you confidence, too. After a while, I wasn't too surprised to be playing every night. I felt comfortable, confident."