Big hockey dreams coming true in small town Lucan, as Toronto and Ottawa face off in NHL exhibition game
The cheering and the excitement was infectious as a tour bus carrying the Toronto Maple Leafs pulled into the Lucan Community Memorial Centre on Tuesday morning.
But the moment the players stepped off the bus, it became quiet. Hundreds of kids waiting in the arena parking lot of this winning Kraft Hockeyville community were all completely focused on getting a moment with their favourite player, and were perhaps a little star struck too.
“It was just amazing to even meet Mitch Marner. That was the best part,” said 11-year-old Ben Siroen. He and his 7-year-old brother Cameron both play hockey in Ilderton, and consider the former London Knight to be an inspiration.
“[It’s] not only one thing that inspires us, maybe practically everything he does because he’s really good. I think he’s one of the best hockey players,” Cameron said. He’d hoped to ask Marner what his favourite position was, but got lost in the moment.
Seven-year-old Blake Burgess was so caught up in the excitement he almost missed his chance to get Nazem Kadri’s autograph. He scurried in front of the barrier, and managed to catch the centre’s attention.
Blake’s mom, Melissa Burgess, said they moved to Lucan nearly a year ago and were thrilled to be a part of the excitement.
“It’s so exciting to be here. I won tickets, too, for tonight, in the arena.”
But it wasn’t all about the Leafs. Not long after players trickled into the arena to get ready for practice, another bus pulled in carrying the Ottawa Senators.
Scott Knoblauch was most excited to meet the Senators’ centre, Matt Duchene.
“He’s a decent skater, and he’s a good passer and a great shooter. I want to improve my shot, be kind of like him,” he explained.
Coming to Lucan from Exeter to watch the teams practice was a bit of a father and son outing for Scott and his dad, Mark Heimrich.
“I’ve been a long-term, die-hard Leafs fan … just happy to be here and supporting it. Looking forward to the practice, because you see different things at a practice than you do in a game setting,” Heimrich said.
He was disappointed to have arrived just as the Leafs were disappearing into the building, but joked that it was busy and he probably would have had to get his elbows up — just like Nazem Kadri — to get an autograph.
Heimrich and Knoblauch didn’t score tickets for Tuesday’s exhibition game. The tickets were available for free, but the Township of Lucan-Biddulph held a raffle to distribute them because of high demand.
READ MORE: Lucan wins Kraft Hockeyville Competition
Being named Kraft Hockeyville also means Lucan is getting $250,000 in arena upgrades, and Lucan Minor Hockey received $10,000 in equipment from the National Hockey League Players Association.
Lucan-Biddulph Mayor Cathy Burghardt-Jesson said Hockeyville will leave a lasting mark on the community.
“It has been incredible watching this thing unfold, watching our arena transform, and again building the excitement.”
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