VICTORIA, British Columbia -- Growing up playing minor hockey in Victoria, Adam Cracknell imagined himself playing for the Vancouver Canucks, but not even his wildest dreams included the chance to do it for the first time in front of family and friends in his hometown.
Thanks to nearby North Saanich winning Kraft Hockeyville in Canada for 2015, Cracknell will get the chance to do that when he puts on his Canucks game jersey for the first time for a preseason game against the San Jose Sharks on Monday.
Cracknell, 30, signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Canucks this summer after splitting last season between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the American Hockey League.
"Coming home, having an opportunity to still try to live the dream here and play for Vancouver, it would be great," the forward said after a sold out morning skate that included a "Crack's Nation" section. "I played just up the hill and get to see a lot of family and friends, and get to wear the Canucks jersey for the first time. It's a huge honor. A lot of friends grew up watching these guys and so did I, and this is a big step in my career to showcase myself in these exhibition games."
Cracknell, who played minor and Junior B hockey in the area, has played 82 NHL games with the St. Louis Blues and Blue Jackets in 10 seasons as a professional. There is a photo of him hanging in the concourse of the arena where the Canucks and Sharks will play Monday, part of a wall of fame that includes linesman Lonnie Cameron, who is just as excited about officiating the Kraft Hockeyville game in front of friends and family.
It may be tough for Cracknell to earn a roster spot on the Canucks who don't have many forward vacancies, but he'll have no shortage of motivation Monday.
"We played a lot of games here, a lot of friends watching," Cracknell said. "We always dreamed about playing for the Vancouver Canucks and unfortunately I was the only one that went on, but they are all great people and they are all here supporting me so I need to play for them as well."
That support certainly wasn't limited to Cracknell. A crowd of more than 2,000 people lined the street that winds down a hill towards the arena, with boisterous fans lined up more than 10 deep to greet players when they came off the bus and walked into the rink.
Cracknell wasn't surprised by the greeting.
"Not at all," the 30-year-old said. "Knowing what this town is all about with hockey and with the Vancouver Canucks, they are huge supporters, always have been, and for the team and organization to be here it's huge what they did for Hockeyville, it's great."
Canucks center Brandon Sutter wasn't surprised by the big crowd either, especially after last year's Kraft Hockeyville was held in Sylvan Lake, Alberta.
"It's pretty fun for these small towns to get to be part of something like this," said Sutter, who will make his Canucks debut on a line with Radim Vrbata and Sven Baertschi. "A couple thousand people waiting for autographs when the bus pulls up just shows the excitement and energy."
New Sharks coach Pete DeBoer thinks that energy will translate in the game.
"I am always excited about this game as a coach in the League and a guy who grew up in Canada," said DeBoer, who was part of two Canucks training camps here on Vancouver Island as a player in the late 1980s. "For the young guys coming into the lineup it's an immediate indoctrination into the NHL and what it means, especially to people in Canada. This is going to be a packed building, there is going to be a lot of energy in here, and after coming through a training camp where the buildings are quiet, it's an exciting environment."