Corey Perry had just turned 11 when he saw a game at the 1996 Memorial Cup in his hometown of Peterborough.
His family had moved there only a year earlier from Haleybury -- his father being with the OPP meant a few moves -- and Perry didn't really have a favourite OHL team. He just loved hockey.
"Those players just looked so big. I thought it was a longshot for me to play in the OHL," the London Knights right-winger recalled yesterday.
Playing in the OHL, the Memorial Cup and the NHL were only but a dream at the time, but today Perry already has an OHL championship and is one win away from appearing in the Memorial Cup final.
And an NHL career definitely awaits him with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
"Grand Rapids? No . . . Granby, that's what it was. Brandon, Peterborough and somebody else, I don't know," Perry said when asked who played in that 1996 Memorial Cup.
"Somebody else" was Guelph.
"Granby won, I know that," Perry. The Predateurs beat the Peterborough Petes 4-0 in the final.
Perry was raised in an OHL environment. His father Jeff was born in Peterborough and Corey's grandmother billeted Petes players for 10 years.
"The guys were always there. That made it a little bit easier coming into London, knowing how to act and what was happening.
"They treated her with respect, so that's why I always wanted to treat everybody with respect coming in here."
Perry has gained the respect -- not only from London but from the OHL during his four years in the league.
But it's still interesting how this Memorial Cup tournament is billed as "Sidney Crosby against the London Knights," not the "Rimouski Oceanic against the Knights" or "Crosby against Perry."
"It's Sidney Crosby's team, and that's good for the London Knights because we don't want to be known as a one-player team," Perry said, adding that he intends no disrespect toward his former Canadian junior team linemate because Crosby always says this is about the Rimouski Oceanic and not him.
The media has created the monster "and it takes the pressure off us and puts it more on Sidney," said Perry, who has three goals and one assist in two games.
Teammate David Bolland respects Perry for how he has gone about his business playing in Crosby's shadow here.
"Corey is handling it well," Bolland said. "He doesn't let it get to his head. He just comes out and plays his own game.
"He doesn't care about the comparisons. He just handles it in his own mind."
But with his play at the world juniors and in this Memorial Cup, Perry has managed to draw some of the spotlight from Crosby.
"Personally, it's kind of nice," Perry admitted. "Throughout my junior career there's always been knocks on me, and finally I'm starting to answer some critics.
"There were a few I think I silenced (at the world juniors). And hopefully, there's a few more I've silenced during this tournament . . . and throughout my whole junior career."
Perry said that even when he hears the criticism, at least he knows people are talking about him.
"It doesn't bother me if people are talking about me. Maybe that's a good thing (and) it makes you strive for even more."
It's been a long road that has taken Perry from that one Memorial Cup game at the Peterborough Memorial Centre in 1996 to tonight's contest at the John Labatt Centre against the Ottawa 67's.
One thing can definitely be said.
It's no longer a longshot.