MONTREAL – Jiri Sekac got the full Bell Centre experience during his first NHL home game.
Suiting up in front of his new fans for the first time after playing his first four NHL games on the road, Sekac started his night by stepping out of the Zamboni tunnel and hoisting the iconic Canadiens torch at center ice. That wasn’t even close to the biggest ovation he would receive during the team’s home opener.
With Rene Bourque causing havoc on the doorstep, Sekac banged away at a Jarred Tinordi rebound, finding the back of the net to tie the game at three with just under two minutes to go in the second period.
“That’s a pretty good job in front of the net [by Bourque],” said Sekac, handing credit for the marker over to his linemate, whose presence in the blue paint helped open the door for his first NHL goal. “That’s what we’re trying to do – work hard in front of the net and get pucks there and see what happens.”
Setting off the home crowd just by lighting the lamp, Sekac got the Bell Centre faithful going even further when PA announcer Michel Lacroix highlighted that the tying goal was also the Czech forward’s first in the NHL. While the 21,273 in attendance were clearly happy to show their appreciation for his milestone marker, the acoustics may have been bolstered by the addition of the personal cheering section he had on hand for the evening.
“Someone just showed me my dad’s reaction. He’s usually [grumpy], but tonight he was in a better mood,” joked Sekac, having watched his father, Jiri Sr., celebrate his son’s inaugural NHL goal in person. “He was actually happy! My whole family helped me and I’m really thankful to all of them. They’re a big part of my life and that’s why I’m here now. It’s an amazing feeling that they could see my first NHL goal. My dad will probably not sleep for another five days.”
Having mentioned to one reporter earlier on Thursday that he wouldn’t be looking up into the stands during the game in case he spotted his father reacting to one of his mistakes, Sekac admits he glanced above the glass a few times after his goal to see if he could spot the celebration in real time.
|Jiri Sekac with his first goal puck. |
“I tried to find him but there are way too many people here,” shared the 22-year-old winger with a laugh. “I couldn’t find him. I just watched the video [of his celebration] now and it’s one of the better moves he has.”
While his father only plays hockey on a recreational basis, Sekac still turns to Jiri Sr. for help preparing for big games – although their chalk talk doesn’t tend to include much discussion of X’s and O’s.
“He doesn’t give me advice; he just wishes me good luck. He helps me mentally. That’s probably why I scored my first goal. I was really calm back home and really happy that my whole family was here,” described the Kladno native. “I want to dedicate my first goal to my whole family. My grandpa just turned 70 years old today so it would be nice to dedicate it to him.”
With plenty of cause for celebration in the Sekac household on Thursday night, the rookie winger made the evening a family affair for all of his out-of-town guests. While some players find a spot for their first goal puck on a mantle back home, Sekac instead plans on handing it over to his uncle as a keepsake of the occasion. He won’t need the rubber memento to help him remember his Bell Centre debut.
“It was one of the best moments of my life. It’s hard to describe,” he said, still beaming in front of his stall. “It feels unreal. I just can’t stop smiling.”Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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