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Young fans soak up Winter Park experience

by Katie Foglia / Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets held an outdoor practice earlier this afternoon at Winter Park, presented by Worthington Industries at McFerson Commons (located across the street from Nationwide Arena), in front of hundreds of fans.

The players skated and entertained the crowd and, despite having to board Blue Jackets Air en route to Boston, stuck around and had plenty of time to mingle with fans, snap some photographs and sign a few autographs.

And a few lucky fans were surprised when the players asked them if they wanted their hockey stick.

Three-year-old Isaac Fosson, who goes by “Makai,” was standing next to his dad Mike when Alexander Wennberg handed the young fan his stick.

“Alex came out and offered it to him,” Mike said. “He was stunned, didn’t know what to think. He’s pretty excited about it.”

Here's Makai with his stick from Alex Wennberg.

Makai brought his own hockey skates and gloves to watch the players practice, and was excited to get out on the ice for the public skating session.

“He’s excited about going out and skating once they open the ice,” Mike said. “He’s been on the ice since he was two. He’s excited to get out there.”

Mike said he and his son have been to quite a few Blue Jackets games, and started a new tradition this year by traveling to Chicago to watch the Jackets play the Blackhawks. Their plan is to go to all of the Jackets' road games against defending Stanley Cup champions each year.

“Hopefully, we won’t need to do that and it will be here,” Mike said. “But, each year that’s what we plan to do. So this year we went to Chicago and watched that game…and even though we didn’t win, there was a great group of fans there.”

Makai was wielding Wennberg’s stick around Winter Park like a professional, and his dad said he has been watching hockey since he was born.

“He cried until I took him to a hockey game, and then he was able to sit through a whole hockey game and actually be quiet and watch what was happening,” Mike said. “So I figured I better get some skates and start learning about hockey.”

Mike said he was happy to be spending the afternoon with his son and enjoy the outdoor rink.

“It was great. The weather’s terrific. The players were great,” Mike said of practice. “They put on a great event for the fans to come out and enjoy, and the players are really friendly.

“Obviously, being able to hand out a stick like that, that’s a pretty special thing. I’m glad that we were able to make it out here, and I’m glad that they brought the rink back after the All-Star event (last year). I feel like this should definitely be an every year thing.”

And as for that stick? Mike knows exactly where it’s going.

Callum got a stick from Scott Hartnell.

“(Makai) has some decorative sticks hanging in his room,” Mike said. “I think that’ll probably sit in the corner, and every once in a while he’s probably going to bring it out and try to play hockey with it in the house.”

Another lucky young fan who got a stick today was four-year-old Callum Downs.

Callum was at Winter Park with his mom, Jaclyn Downs, when Scott Hartnell handed him his stick.

“Well, he doesn’t have preschool and we heard about the practice, so it just seemed perfect to come down and see everybody,” Jaclyn said.

In addition to the stick, Nick Foligno was flipping some pucks in the air when one bounced over the glass and onto the grass nearby the rink. Luckily, a good Samaritan nearby retrieved the puck and handed it to Callum.

“It’s great. It’s really great," Jaclyn said of the practice. "I think it makes everything feel more accessible. For being as cold as it is, there was a great crowd and every seemed very happy to be here.”

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