Crosby wows crowds at hockey clinic

JESSICA HALLAM -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:14 AM ET

Welcome to the capital, Mr. Crosby -- we wish you were ours.

That message was clearly evident from the cheers of local hockey fans yesterday, as thousands showed up to usher in the top prospects in today's NHL entry draft at two meet-and-greet events.

Based on the scream factor, it was obvious that puck-lovers were most excited to see Sidney Crosby, even though he's set to work his magic for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The 17-year-old took to the ice yesterday, along with four other top prospects, to get an hour of exercise with lucky wannabes.

It wasn't just any series of drills.

Some 30 minor leaguers huffed and puffed alongside their idols before a packed house of 2,000 at the Bell Sensplex.

Best friends and Cumberland Barons, Parker Wagstaff and Felix Charron, both 10, were thrilled to get their Sens jerseys signed by the superstar prospects.

PASSED THE PUCK

Parker and Felix were even able to share the puck with their favourite draft pick -- you know who.

"Through a whole drill, Sidney Crosby was passing to me and I was passing to Parker," Felix said excitedly. "I was in there."

Felix's dad, Vince, is president of their hockey club and proudly watched as his son careened around the ice with the soon-to-be pros.

"I thought it was just great to see how involved and how close Crosby was with the kids -- talking to them, passing the puck," he said. "Everybody displayed awesome sportsmanship ... and the passion from the stands -- you could feel it."

After the hockey clinic wrapped up, 20 of the top prospects hopped a huge, black tour bus and showed up at Major's Hill Park just after noon.

About 400 lucky fans at the park were introduced to the players and got to snag some autographs.

Many clutched free posters of Crosby that were given out during both events.

DEEP DRAFT

Another father-son duo, Craig and Jeremy MacLaine, drove 40 minutes from their Moose Creek home to see the prospects.

They both anticipate an excellent season of hockey, based on the talent in the draft.

"It's one of the deepest drafts in the last decade -- there's so much talent. The first 10 (picks), at least, are really solid players," said the dad, a Habs fan.

"Once they are in the NHL, we'll be able to say, 'We were there the day before they were drafted.' "

Jeremy, 18, a hockey player himself, identified with the prospects.

"These kids are my age -- they seem like normal people so it's pretty interesting," he said.

"With the lockout being over, it's the NHL's time to give back to the fans with events like this."

jessica.hallam@ott.sunpub.com


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