Hockey for fun. Remember that? For all the years that have passed since Edmonton Oilers Fernando Pisani and Joffrey Lupul laced their skates as kids, that's the lasting memory from the days when there was nothing more on the line than bragging rights and a cup of hot chocolate with their dads after the game.
With Minor Hockey Week in full swing and the Oilers preparing for another stretch drive to the playoffs with big stakes and big money on the line, it's an interesting juxtaposition for a couple of local boys who took their first uncertain steps on blades here.
"It was always something I got excited about," says Pisani. "It was fun because you'd wake up in the morning and your parents would be excited for you. You had something to play for."
While Pisani and his Castledowns teams were regulars at MHW, Lupul played his minor hockey out in Fort Saskatchewan, which didn't participate. That didn't stop his Rangers from pulling on their jerseys and getting after it on the weekends.
"The couple of hours of ice time you'd get on the weekend was something you looked forward to all week," Lupul said. "Even if it was 6 a.m. and it was tough getting up, that's the highlight of your week when you're a kid."
Pisani, 30, has vivid memories of MHW.
"The first few years, it always seemed like early exits for our team, although I think we got to the semis one year," smiles Pisani. "I remember skating and around looking up in the stands to see where my dad was. It was about being with your friends in the dressing room and on the bench and skating around and chasing the puck. The fastest guy usually gets it and I was pretty fast."