SHENZHEN, China -- Lanny McDonald quickly went from ambassador to teacher during Fan Fest at the 2018 O.R.G. NHL China Games on Thursday.
McDonald saw a group of kids trying to shoot some pucks, but they weren't holding their sticks the right way.
"So, I thought, 'Well, I can't have this,' " said McDonald, a 1989 Stanley Cup champion with the Calgary Flames and 1992 inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame. "I jumped in and got them to turn their hands over. The three girls who were supposed to be teaching the lessons say, 'Oh, that's how you do it.' They hadn't quite figured it out yet so I'm glad I jumped in.
"They were all having fun and then the Stanley Cup arrived. Everyone was having pictures taken with the Cup, which was pretty cool. I don't care what age you are or what country you're in, the Cup is magical. Someone asked, 'Is your name on the Cup?' I was more than happy to show them."
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McDonald was invited by the NHL to be part of the celebration of hockey here this week by serving as an ambassador for the China Games. The Boston Bruins and Flames will play two preseason games, one here on Saturday (2:30 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN) and the other in Beijing on Wednesday (7:30 a.m. ET; NBCSN, SN).
He also visited China in 2012, going to Hong Kong and Beijing for youth clinics and state dinners with a contingent of Flames alumni and a few others. This time, though, he brought his 12-year-old grandson, Hayden Townsley, along with him.
"He's been a hit so far," McDonald said. "He's enjoyed it and we've only been here a day already."
Townsley had to skip eight days of school for this trip, but McDonald said he may do a school project on his Chinese adventure.
"I can't wait for him to see the Great Wall and the Forbidden City and all those great things," McDonald said. "He'll be able to go back and do a whole history lesson to his class back home. He better."
"It's part of the deal," Townsley said, laughing.
McDonald is hopeful kids Townsley's age and younger realize the NHL's vision of growing hockey at the youth level in China. Regardless, he likes the idea that the NHL is now making a full push into the Chinese market.
"I think they're doing it the right way," McDonald said. "You're coming here and you're helping build the game from the grassroots out. They're not airlifting a team into here. Yes, there are two teams playing exhibition games here, which will be fabulous for people to understand not only the game itself but the speed of the game.
"If people start to understand, especially with the amount of arenas they're going to be building here in the next couple of years, it's going to be fabulous. You're doing something right and building the game from the grassroots up."