'It pumps me up': Bantam hockey players become Oilers for a day
‘I’ve never done anything like this before, it’s been pretty fun’
Meeting a professional hockey player face-to-face is what hockey dreams are made of.
That dream came true — and then some — for about 40 bantam age hockey players Thursday at Rogers Place.
"I've never done anything like this before, it's been pretty fun," Sam McClenaghan, captain of the St. Albert Bears said with a grin on his face.
The St. Albert Bears and the CAC Think Green Alberta team will face off at Rogers Place at 6 p.m. for the Armour Cup.
Both teams were chosen from 90 Edmonton-area teams for 'Storm The Centre', an annual competition co-sponsored by the Edmonton Oilers and sportswear company Under Armour giving hockey players a behind-the-scenes look at what it's like to be a professional hockey player for a day.
'Couldn't ask for anything more'
The kids reviewed video, practiced on Rogers Place ice, learned about nutrition and fitness and even got a chance to meet a real pro. Earlier in the day, Oilers forward Milan Lucic made a surprise visit and talked hockey with the boys for about 15 minutes.
"Coming through the bottom of the building here down at Rogers, to meeting Kevin Lowe and Milan Lucic and having a great meal presentation and skate on the ice you couldn't ask for anything more," said John Haney, head coach of the St. Albert Bears.
For Oilers winger Milan Lucic, talking to the kids reminded him of what it was like when he was a bantam player growing up in Vancouver.
"It's good to see them enjoying the day here," said Lucic who signed some pucks and hats and posed for pictures with each team."
"To be able to talk to them and share my story a little bit hopefully it can motivate them and help them with their path in hockey."
Lucic was never drafted into the WHL but went on to play for the Vancouver Giants where he won a Memorial Cup in 2007.
He followed that up with a Stanley Cup win in 2011 with the Boston Bruins.
Watch: Bantam hockey players meet Oilers winger Milan Lucic
Lucic says he was lucky enough to see the inside of an NHL dressing room thanks to his uncle Dan Kesa, who played 139 games in the NHL, including one season with the Pittsburgh Penguins where Lucic got a chance to meet a legend.
"I remember being 10 years old and getting to meet Jaromir Jagr in his ultimate prime," recalled Lucic who ended up being a teammate with Jagr on the Boston Bruins 15 years later.
"You know being able to meet NHL players, and being in an NHL dressing room at this age through my uncle was pretty cool and something I always remember and it's something I always used as motivation because I always wanted to be one of those guys growing up."
It's a dream many of the players on both of these bantam hockey teams share as well.
"It pumps me up about I can actually have a future in hockey more than I dream of, I bet it pumps the boys up too," said McClenaghan.