SUN Hockey Pool

Thrilling time for Fiddler

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:17 AM ET

Few times has the visiting team drawn quite the crowd for a game-day skate that the Nashville Predators had on hand yesterday.

More than 200 friends and family were there to see Edmonton native Vern Fiddler, Fort McMurray's Scottie Upshall, Lloydminster product Scott Hartnell and Jordin Tootoo, whose group trekked to the closest NHL city to their home in Rankin Inlet.

SATISFYING

For Fiddler, the day was particularly satisfying. His father, Bob, cut a few sweet deals on car sales to members of the Oilers in the early '90s, and in turn, young Vern was granted visits into the Oiler dressing room.

"Now I'm the one getting him into the room,"said Fiddler, who watched Hartnell score the Predators' first goal in a 4-2 loss.

"Every kid who grew up in Edmonton watched the Oilers and I had a dream of playing for the Oilers. They used to be my favourite team, but not any more."

Fiddler was through Edmonton last season for AHL games against the Road Runners, but this is something completely different. It doesn't get much better for a minor-league call-up to go from a checking role to suddenly finding himself having Paul Kariya as a linemate.

"He's such a talented winger and that just makes it easy for me," said Fiddler. "I'm just trying to fill a spot here for the time being and he makes it easy for me to get him and Upshall the puck. I just go to the net and try and chip in some goals.

"It's definitely upped my confidence a little, but at the same time, I've got to stick with my game of playing at both ends of the rink. Hopefully I can chip in a little bit offfensively."

Fiddler hasn't disappointed in that capacity, notching five goals in 20 games including a pair of game winners.

"We've had some good storylines in the past like Tomas Vokoun and Scott Walker who bounced around in organizations and in the minors and they've come up and are good players now,"said Predators head coach Barry Trotz.

"Vern's in that mould. He's grown up the last few years in our system and our culture and he's got better and better. It's rewarding when a player comes up the hard way."

SPECIAL EXPERIENCE

Playing on the closest NHL ice to your home town for the first time is definitely a special experience.

Growing up as an Oiler fan, Hartnell has fond memories of first game with the Predators in Edmonton as an 18-year-old rookie in 2000. But that day also had its stresses with making sure he got his 30 tickets out to everyone invited. Come game time, Hartnell quickly learned the basic approach was the best move for himself. In turn it's now good advice for Fiddler.

"Keep it simple," figured Hartnell. "You want to do the best you can, you want to score a goal and win the game. But if you're too fancy you'll be picking the puck out of the back of your own net."


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