Fans flock to see the Big Three

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:59 PM ET

EDMONTON - They'd only been together a couple of hours and it was like they already needed a name.

But they're two players from Kingston short of being the Kingston Trio and two Swedes short of qualifying as Tre Kronor.

They are, however, from this moment on, linked together as the big three, the talented triumvirate tasked with leading the team back to the promised land. And the scene yesterday was one to be remembered if they ever get there.

“These young guys are at the front end of a very special relationship with these fans, so drink it up," said new head coach Tom Renney of Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson and Jordan Eberle.

Normally for an Edmonton Oilers prospects camp you can count the crowd on your fingers and only occasionally need to use your toes. Not this one.

Somehow about 500 fans sardined themselves into Clareview Arena, where the seating capacity might not be much more than 50, to be able to say they saw the three first round draft choices on the ice together for the first time.

“In the middle of the summer this is pretty good,” said Paajarvi-Svensson. “It shows you how great the hockey fans are here. With the media and everything, it's pretty exciting.”

After practice, the two dressing rooms involved were packed with more media than there were at just about any practice last season. The three stars were all in one room but Paajarvi-Svensson was moved to the other for interview purposes to divide the media mob.

After the scrums, Hall, Eberle and Paajarvi-Svensson were ushered out to a lobby full of fans wanting autographs.

Out in that lobby, the Oilers had set up a souvenir stand to sell sweaters with Eberle and his No. 14 and Hall and No. 10 (for 2010). But no Pajaarvi-Svensson sweater was available for purchase. And apparently it's Pajaarvi from this point, not Paajarvi-Svensson and three cheers for that.

It was Magnus Paajarvi on the roster sheet they provided the fans and in the biography material provided the media. And, as was the case with his Team Sweden sweater at the World Juniors and the IIHF World Championships, it will be Paajarvi on the back of his jersey as well.

“I always use Paajarvi on my sweaters,” he said. “Otherwise it would have to be in a circle.”

Paajarvi, he explained, is his mother's name.

“They divorced 10 or 11 years ago. That's the story.”

His dad, an agent in Sweden, gets to represent him and his mom gets her name on the back of the jersey.

Asked what number he wants on his uniform, the player who wore No. 91 last year, said it doesn't matter.

“You have to make the spot first before you make the number,” he said.

And with that quote you really have to start cheering for this kid who has been playing against men in the Swedish Elite League the last three years.

He may be the most NHL ready of the three. But he may also have to adapt the most to the environment, schedule and style of hockey.

Tuesday he was adapting to the time zone.

“I arrived at about 5 p.m. and went to Rexall Place and saw everything. I fought for a few hours to stay awake.

“I'm just glad to be here and see what it's all about.”

What it was all about Tuesday was noticing there's a tad of young talent on this ice together.

“There are a lot of good guys here. You can see it right from the start.”

Hall and Eberle have a bond with each other from playing for Canada at the World Juniors. For the first while, Paajarvi could be the third wheel.

“Having three first round picks together, I think that's great,” he said.

“I'm just glad to be one of the three.

“I don't know much about them as people. But I know quite a bit about them as hockey (players). They score huge goals every time,” he said.

His first impressions, he said, are positive.

“They seem like good guys so far.”

He said there was some talk of going to West Edmonton Mall later in the day and he said maybe he could start to get to know them there.

Paajarvi's late arrival meant he missed Hall signing his contract at a morning press conference at Rexall Place Monday.

“I signed mine in my home room,” he said.

Home room?

“My bedroom. At my home.”

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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