BELLEVILLE, Ontario – When Alex Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals teammates arrived at Yardmen Arena for the morning skate Saturday in preparation for the evening's Kraft Hockeyville game against the Winnipeg Jets (7 p.m. ET, CBC, NHL Network-U.S.), they had a large crowd waiting to greet them.
Plenty of autographs were signed and handshakes exchanged as one of the biggest stars in the world was center stage in a town that normally doesn't host NHL games. The Capitals' captain said he's ready to put on a show for the people of Stirling-Rawdon and its surrounding communities as the puck drops on the NHL preseason.
"It's good for people, it's good for fans," Ovechkin said. "People are excited right now, so we're just going to give them a good time to spend tonight."
Ovechkin isn't the only big name expected to be in Washington's lineup Saturday night. Goaltender Braden Holtby will start and defenseman Mike Green is also in town.
"I talked to Nick Backstrom from Sweden and he said if it was a small town in Sweden, it would be just as rocking there," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "That's why we're here. Hopefully we'll put on a good show and the fans will enjoy it and everybody comes out in a positive way."
For Washington players who played at the amateur level in North America, stepping into Yardmen Arena on Saturday morning brought back memories of their time in junior hockey. Green, who played for the Saskatoon Blades in the Western Hockey League, is eager to experience his first Kraft Hockeyville game.
"Once I got into the building, I kind of had some flashbacks of playing in juniors in Saskatoon," Green said. "It seems like it's going to be an exciting game. We didn't know what to expect, so this has been very welcoming.
"In Saskatoon where I played, they never had an opportunity to have any NHL games there, and I know that my billets would have loved to see an NHL game there. I'm sure it's pretty special to the people here."
Oates said he's unsure of just how much ice time his star players will receive, but he admitted he felt like he owed it to the people of Stirling-Rawdon to bring them along so they could see the likes of Ovechkin compete live.
"We'll see how the flow goes," Oates said. "But, I plan on using them a lot. It's their first chance. We'll roll lines and see how many power plays there are. You kind of gauge it accordingly, but I was planning on using them a lot."