Back when Indy Car events were held in Edmonton - just 25 minutes outside of his hometown of St. Albert, Alberta - Colton Parayko would go the races every year with his dad.
That's where his love of auto racing was born.
"My dad was a huge race fan," Parayko said. "Whether it was NASCAR or Indy Car, when I was younger, we ended up going every year. Growing up, I always enjoyed watching fast cars and things like that."
Shortly after returning to St. Louis after a stellar showing at the IIHF World Championships where he won a silver medal with Team Canada, Parayko was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, where he got an up-close look at the 101st running of the Indy 500.
Thanks to his teammate Alex Pietrangelo - who knows Indy Car driver Graham Rahal - Parayko had behind-the-scenes access to the race, which included a tour of the Panasonic Pagoda - the race control center that includes all the video feeds, TV and radio broadcast booths, scoring center and more.
Parayko was also on the track as the cars lined up for the pre-race ceremonies and the national anthem as drivers suited up and got strapped into their cars.
That pre-race scene, Parayko says, is a lot different than the pre-game routines for hockey players.
"For us, before the game, it's more alone time," Parayko said. "For them, you go down to the track and there's so many people and you're talking to everyone until you jump in the car and strap in… I don't know how many people were on the race track before, but (the drivers are) taking pictures and shaking hands (just minutes before the race)."
Parayko and Pietrangelo were sitting second row betweens Turns 1 and 2 - just a few feet away from where Scott Dixon and Jay Howard were involved in a horrific crash on Lap 53.
"The fence was completely shredded and open. It was actually pretty dangerous," Parayko said. "We could feel the heat from the car when it was on fire. That's how close we were… It was scary. To see that he walked away was absolutely incredible."
Getting an up-close view - one better than any he had as a kid watching Indy Car races in Edmonton - gave Parayko a greater understanding and appreciation for the sport.
"I have a video from our seats and the speed as they go by is absolutely incredible," he said. "The decisions they have to make in split seconds, it's pretty impressive actually while you're turning the car and trying to focus."
"We were in seats where they weren't (even going) full speed, but going down the straightaway would be a whole different level. Between strategy and teammates working together, there's a lot of things that go on behind the scenes… it's amazing to see."