'I felt like I was dreaming,' winner of Stanley Cup tickets says
14-year-old hockey fan from Montreal wins CBC's Our Game contest
It was a love for language and a passion for hockey that neatly aligned to make 14-year-old Simeon Kirimidtchiev's dream come true.
While driving home in March of this year, his father, Ilian Kirimidtchiev, a French-speaking immigrant from Bulgaria, was practising English by listening to CBC Radio and heard of a contest to win tickets to the Stanley Cup finals.
As soon as he got home, he raced to tell Simeon.
"I said, 'OK, I'll try it'," Simeon said. "I was pretty excited, but I wasn't sure I would win."
The student at Montreal's Collège Stanislas signed up to the Our Game website and created a profile that included photos of his bantam B Pierrefonds, Que., team.
Assuming chances to win were slim (a winner would be chosen at random from each of the profiles posted to the site), neither Simeon nor his father gave much more thought to the contest.
But that all changed last week when Simeon opened his email to see a message from CBC saying he had won.
"When I got the email, at first I just thought it was something like a commercial, but then I opened it and what I saw, I was just really shocked, because I didn't expect that," Simeon said.
Son's love of hockey 'a sickness,' father says
"It was Tuesday, the seventh of May, I was working on my computer, and suddenly, I heard he was crying to his mother. He just saw his email and went crazy. It was perfect," his father said.
"For him, hockey is not a love; it's a sickness," he joked.
In addition to the Stanley Cup tickets, as winner of the contest, Simeon will also get $500 in spending money, airfare for two and a one-night stay in a hotel.
Simeon's love for the game began when he was six years old. That's when his mother, Katia, won tickets to a Habs game through work.
Though he knew little of the game, Simeon's father collected the tickets and headed to the Bell Centre with Simeon.
"That was the moment when I really fell in love with hockey," Simeon said.
"I don't think he was really interested in hockey then. We just went because we won the tickets," his father said. "But what is strange, he still remembers the teams and the score and everything, which I don't remember."
It wasn't long after that Canadiens game that Simeon began playing hockey in school and then in a local league.
The right-winger is now on the ice up to five times a week.
"It's the happiness you feel, the joy you get when you put the puck in the net," he said.
His favourite Canadiens player is Alexei Kovalev.
"I love what he's able to do with the puck. He's something else, something more than other players on the team," he said, adding that he also enjoys watching Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings.
"I found him the most complete player in the NHL. He plays on short-handed power plays, he deaks, he has everything I'd like to have as a player," he said.
Hockey helps hone English language skills
Where his father uses radio to help improve his English, watching and playing hockey have served the same purpose for Simeon, who speaks French and Bulgarian at home and French at school.
"Hockey is the only place I speak English. And when I watch hockey on TV, usually it's in English, too. Hockey is a big part of it [learning English]," he said.
Though his parents once flipped the channel when they saw the sport on TV, Hockey Night in Canada is now a staple in the Kirimidtchiev household.
"Because now he's interested, we are all watching the game every Saturday night together," Simeon's father said. "We find soccer a boring game compared to hockey; it's more dynamic."
Now that hockey is a family affair, the Kirimidtchievs are trying to include Simeon's brother, Boris, 10, and mother, Katia, in the trip. They'll try to use the $500 toward two more tickets.
Though the Habs were eliminated, Simeon, who's now cheering for Washington, says it doesn't make the experience any less exciting.
"At the beginning, I felt like I was dreaming, I never expected to go to the finals," he said. "And being there on Hockey Night in Canada on CBC, just being at the Stanley Cup finals. I watch that every spring, just being there, ah, it's awesome."
For his father, the experience will be about more than the game.
"For him, this is really a dream. I would just like to see his face," he said.