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Learning from the best in the business

Fan Club member Justin Karwatsky will shadow head equipment manager Pierre Gervais on Saturday afternoon

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL /

MONTREAL - Seven-year-olds aren't typically interested in the finer points of skate sharpening and stick taping, right? Well, Justin Karwatsky is.

And he's about to get a crash course in those particular areas and many, many more when he serves as head equipment manager Pierre Gervais' pregame assistant for Saturday afternoon's contest against the Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre.

Justin is the lucky Fan Club member who won the Equipment Manager Contest, which was held in conjunction with the upcoming Tim Hortons Family Weekend.

Video: Pierre Gervais tours the Habs equipment department

Tasked with helping Gervais and his staff members with a variety of setup duties leading into warmups, the youngster is in for a real treat.

According to his parents, Peter and Cynthia, Justin is unquestionably the right person for the job.

"Just to give you an idea, he really likes to have his skates sharpened the right way," said Peter. "We've tried 5/8" and 7/8" in the past, and we're trying 6/8" right now. I think he likes it."

What makes this so intriguing is that Justin began playing hockey only three years ago. He's currently plying his trade in the Novice 2 ranks as a defenseman with the local Varennes Blitz.

So how does a Grade 2 student develop such a unique interest in skate sharpening?

"Justin is very inquisitive. He always wants to know why. He always wants to know the reason behind something. He wanted to know how Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin were able to skate the way they do, so we did some homework with him. I even learned about it so I could teach him properly," explained Cynthia. "He even asked me about the blades Shea Weber, Nick Suzuki and Ilya Kovalchuk use, and how they like their skates sharpened."

Apparently, Justin even hit up YouTube for some quality instruction on preparing his sticks for battle.

"He tapes his hockey sticks by himself. He watches videos on how to tape them correctly. He learned how to do the grip properly with the knob. He's a hockey nerd," revealed Cynthia with a laugh. "He found out some players tape their stick blades all the way across, some just in the middle, and some with colors. He wants to know about all that. I think he's going to have a lot of questions for Pierre."

As far as Justin being a "hockey nerd" is concerned, there's definitely some truth there. He loves getting the iPad out in the morning and checking the scores and statsheets from across the NHL.

The practice was captured in the photo below, which was snapped when Justin was five years old.

Justin's story wholeheartedly resonated with Gervais. 

He's eager to meet him and give him a behind-the-scenes look into game day life with the Habs.

"It doesn't happen often that you a have kid who's really interested in equipment like that. I've never seen that. Even my own kids don't care about that," cracked Gervais, whose tenure with the Canadiens has spanned over three decades. "He sounds a lot like me when I was young, though. At school, I remember I was drawing hockey sticks and drawing curves and logos. I was exactly the same."

Video: Custom blade profiles of Canadiens players

So bring on the questions, Justin! Pierre is ready to answer every single one of them.

"Just hearing the questions is going to be fun," concluded Gervais with a smile. "I'll show him the new skate sharpening machine we have. It's extraordinary. I'll explain everything. And if he wants to discuss sharpening, I'll be more than happy to do it."

To learn more about the Canadiens Fan Club, click here.

To purchase tickets for games during Tim Hortons Family Weekend, click here.

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