When a young Dave Andreychuk
was riding his bike in the Dundas Driving Park all those years ago, he probably never imagined he'd back there Sunday signing autographs with the Stanley Cup as part of the Kraft Hockeyville celebration.
Andreychuk actually grew up in Hamilton, then a separate city to that of Dundas, but he was nonetheless close enough for family excursions. So when the former Stanley Cup champion learned Dundas had won this year's Kraft Hockeyville competition, he knew he wanted to be part of it.
"I was contacted even before we knew alumni were going there," said Andreychuk, who played with the Sabres from 1982 to 1993. "I was asked, would I be involved in it, would my foundation be in it? It was a pretty quick yes."
Andreychuk, along with fellow Sabre alumnus Danny Gare
and former Senators Shawn McEachern
and Brad Marsh
, will host hockey clinics for the local youth, visit local elementary schools and McMasters Children's Hospital and, of course, sign autographs at the Dundas Driving Park.
These activities aren’t anything new to Andreychuk, who has been striving to give back to greater City of Hamilton since his playing days.
"While I was still playing, I made a 10-year commitment to Hamilton minor hockey that we would give money to underprivileged kids to play," Andreychuk explained. "That was how it (Dave Andreychuk
Foundation) all started."
His foundation has since expanded from minor hockey to include local children's hospitals. In the past, Andreychuk has hosted a fundraiser for the neonatal unit at the McMasters Children's Hospital, where his sister is a nurse, and he also made a very special visit in 2004 after he won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning
"I'm really excited to go back there again, six years later," he told NHL.com.
Kraft Hockeyville came at the right time for Andreychuk and his foundation, as he had been looking for a way to expand into the outlying communities of Hamilton, such as Dundas and Stoney Creek.
"It's just important that I'm back in that community and do some good things there,” he said. "When I found out Dundas had won, obviously it was great for that community and you know for me, it's your hometown and right next door, so it was a natural fit."
Through the NHLPA's Goals and Dreams Fund and in the spirit of Kraft Hockeyville, Andreychuk's foundation will receive 15 new sets of equipment. He aims to put it right back into to Dundas.
"My plan and my foundation directors' plan is to go back into the building (Dundas' J.L. Grightmire Arena) and hold a free clinic for young kids to come out," Andreychuk said. “We’ll probably buy some more sets of equipment and have a little something right there at the rink."
But for Andreychuk, he's really just happy to be going home.
"I'm absolutely excited. I think it's great for not only Dundas, but for the whole area," he said. "I think it is really good for hockey and the way they support minor hockey there. I think it's awesome, and to go back there as a guy that grew up right next door, it's exciting for me."
Andreychuk did in fact play at the J.L. Grightmire Arena back when thoughts of skating in the NHL and winning the Cup were simply just dreams.
"I remember playing hockey there. When you look back on it now, it was good times," he said. "It was not about anything else but having fun, and that's the main thing for kids."
Andreychuk believes playing in the small rink will bring back similar memories for the Sabres and the Senators.
"As a player, you're going into a small little building that takes you back to your youth hockey," he said. "They're really going to relate to where they came from, where all those guys came from."
With family and friends still living close by, Andreychuk is fully aware of the hype of Kraft Hockeyville.
"I know the whole town, they are super excited for this happening. You've got to give them credit, they worked hard trying to get it and they ended up winning," he said.
And who knows, perhaps Andreychuk will get swept in the moment and will grace Dundas with a bike ride through the Driving Park for old times’ sake.
Follow Magalie Lafrenière on Twitter at: @NHLmagalie