Dream a reality

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

In the midst of final preparations for a stint under minor hockey's biggest spotlight, Brett Corkey admitted he'd forgotten an important detail:

The autograph.

"I haven't practised it," said the 12-year-old captain of Springbank's Calgary peewee Flames. "Oh but I'm going to. I'll probably put my No. 9 in there, too."

Confessing to "doodling a little" with his name, 13-year-old goaltender Graham Dunn suggested he, too, would opt to include his digits when approached by Sharpie-toting fans.

With just eight sleeps left before Corkey, Dunn and 14 other proud Calgarians wear their cowboy hats into Le Colisee for the opening of the famed Quebec peewee tourney, the players, their coaches and parents thought they had done everything they could to prime themselves for a 140-team showdown that has produced countless NHLers.

However, they were thrown their first major curve yesterday when the Calgary Flames coaching staff invited the crew over to the 'Dome for a practice and pep talk that left players wide-eyed and parents glassy-eyed.

The NHL may be dead but the dream every young Canadian hockey player has is still very much alive. That wasn't lost on parent Mark Stevenson.

"Getting to skate at the 'Dome, dress in the Flames locker-room, wear the Flames jersey... that's more than a lot of people who play hockey ever get to do and these kids are only (12 and 13) years old," said Stevenson, whose son Connor earned a spot on the roster when Roman Turek's son, Eddy, returned to the Czech Republic with his family.

"It made me very proud and excited for them. But this is as much for the parents, too. It made me kind of remember when I was 12 years old and I got to skate at the Corral."

Armed with matching bags, gloves and new home reds as worn by Darryl Sutter's crew, the team was not only put through the paces by Flames coaches Jim Playfair, Rob Cookson, Rich Preston and David Marcoux last night but they were also shocked to find their names in the dressing room stalls normally occupied by the Flames.

Proud hockey mom Susan Corkey loved the gesture.

"I don't know how you can top this," she shrugged while son Brett and his teammates ate pizza and watched a motivational video in the Flames players' lounge.

"My heart swelled with pride when I saw how good they looked out there in their jerseys and on the big ice. What an opportunity."

Fact is, things are about to get even dreamier for the kids as they embark on a journey that will see them play some of the world's best teams in front of scouts and sold-out crowds who have long treated all participants like royalty.

"It's an experience they'll never forget," said Marcoux, who played in and also coached, several future NHLers at the tourney.

"I was just talking to a couple of AHLers I coached at the tournament in 1992 and '93 and they can still name every guy on their team. Media interviews, huge crowds ... it'll be overwhelming."

Having been selected over local teams coached by Joel Otto and Dave Lowry to be Calgary's representative, the Flames know they'll have their hands full against select teams from 16 countries.

But at least you can bet Connor Stevenson and his 'mates won't have trouble signing their names.

"I'll make up my autograph on the plane," said Stevenson with a grin.

"Maybe like a 'C' and then Stevenson with a line through it. I'm not too nervous but it was sort of scary tonight with all the (media) taking pictures. It was hard to concentrate with all the flashes going off."

Get used to it, son -- for 11 glorious days, you're a poster boy for all that is right with hockey.


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