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Senators, Devils fans meet players on red carpet
Dreams were realized for more than a few hockey fans in the Summerside area.
Nick Crossman, 17, from the nearby community of Bedeque, says he has been an Ottawa Senators fan since he can remember.
He woke up extra early Monday and showed up at Credit Union Place for a good spot along the red-carpet route that would be followed by players from the Senators and New Jersey Devils when they arrived for the morning skate in advance of the 2017 Kraft Hockeyville Canada game (6 p.m. ET, SN1, NHLN, NHL.TV).
Crossman's foresight and preparedness paid off handsomely. He was right along the barrier and had the chance to get autographs and pictures of some of his favorite players. He was even able to chat with Senators forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau about his heroics in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. Pageau scored four goals in a 6-5 overtime win against the New York Rangers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Second Round.
"It was surreal, it was amazing," Crossman said. "You see them on TV and they do all these great little plays and you wonder if you're ever going to get to meet them and they actually come to you instead of you going to them. It's absolutely fantastic."
Crossman had most players sign a book he brought with him. A select few got to sign his red Ottawa Senators jersey.
"I have had this for about 10 years now," he said. "It is my most cherished item; it has never touched the floor and it is always clean."
Crossman became a Senators fan because his family is filled with fans of the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. He wanted to be different.
He was rewarded for that decision and his loyalty to the Senators in the best possible way.
Devils fans had their day as well.
Further down the red carpet line stood Jonathan Dunphy, 30, and his son Martin, 6. They made the drive from Stafford, about an hour west.
Jonathan was in an old-school green and red Devils jersey. Martin had a new-look red and black jersey with the number and name of current goaltender Cory Schneider.
Jonathan became a Devils fan because his parents got him a book with goalie Martin Brodeur on the cover. Martin became a Schneider fan because he loves goalies.
About 45 minutes after the last of the Senators had passed through the line, the Devils arrived. Eventually, Schneider stopped at the space occupied by the Dunphys. He spoke to Martin and signed the back of his jersey before ducking into the building.
Martin's father beamed with pride.
"In small-town PEI, it doesn't get any bigger than this," he said. "It's overwhelming."
Turris to make preseason debut, Brassard remains out for Senators
Center Kyle Turris will make his preseason debut for the Ottawa Senators in the 2017 Kraft Hockeyville Canada game against the New Jersey Devils at Credit Union Place in Summerside, Prince Edward Island on Monday (6 p.m. ET, NHLN, SN1, NHL.TV).
Turris had 55 points (27 goals, 28 assists) in 82 games last season. He had 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 19 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help the Senators advance to the Eastern Conference Final.
"I wanted to put him on the ice before, but we have had so many guys doing well that I had to take him out," coach Guy Boucher said after the morning skate. "It's time now. We need him on the ice. There are three games left and those three games are huge for us to get ready for the season.
"He's a top center that controls a lot of what we do, so we need him on the ice.
The Senators play the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place on Wednesday and the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Saturday before opening the regular season against the Washington Capitals at Canadian Tire Centre on Oct. 5.
Center Derick Brassard will not play Monday. He took part in the morning skate, but wore a yellow non-contact jersey.
Brassard, who had 39 points (14 goals, 25 assists) in 81 games last season, had shoulder surgery on June 5 and is not expected to play in any of the remaining preseason games.
"Even if he got the OK [from the doctor], he won't play," Boucher said. "We'll make him battle it out in the practices. He's been practicing since Day 1. He hasn't missed a beat. He has been working so hard, not just for his injury, but for his shape. He's been in the League for so long, I don't need him out there."
Brassard's status for the opener could affect some of the remaining camp battles, including the status of rookie forwards Logan Brown, Alex Formenton and Filip Chlapik.
Mike Condon and Andrew Hammond will split the game in goal; Condon will start.
Former NHL goalie Leclaire returns to Prince Edward Island as Senators ambassador
This flight into Prince Edward Island was a bit less memorable than the first one that Pascal Leclaire made.
The former NHL goalie who played for the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ottawa Senators, Leclaire came here as rookie in 2001 when the Blue Jackets held training camp in Summerside, the hometown of then-general manager Doug MacLean.
Leclaire, selected No. 8 in the 2001 NHL Draft, was at his first camp and, as such, received the worst assignments and the most uncomfortable accommodations. That's how, he says, he found himself in the cockpit of the team charter as they tried to land in some dicey weather.
"They brought extra bodies to camp that year and they didn't have enough seats for everyone and I sat with the pilots," Leclaire said. "There was a big [weather] situation and we had to try to land a couple of times. I saw everything from up close. It's a good thing I am not scared of planes.
"It wasn't the most comfortable plane ride I've had, but I have good memories of the island."
That's why he jumped at the opportunity when organizers asked him to come to PEI to help celebrate 2017 Kraft Hockeyville as an alumni ambassador for the Ottawa Senators. Leclaire played for Ottawa from 2009-12, going 16-21-3 in 48 games.
Leclaire played three years of junior hockey with the Halifax Mooseheads in nearby Nova Scotia. He also played in Columbus for MacLean and Gerard Gallant, also a PEI resident. Gallant is now coach of the Vegas Golden Knights.
"I have a real good real good relationship with The Maritimes," he said. "I really like it here."
Ottawa plays the New Jersey Devils in a preseason game at Credit Union Place in Summerside on Monday (6 p.m. ET; SN1, NHLN).
On Sunday, Leclaire made sure he took in every part of the festivities. He signed a ton of autographs, talked to the kids who approached, tried the fresh oysters and mussels and the fresh-cut fries. He even went in the bounce house.
All of it took him back to his own youth.
"Most hockey players aren't from the big city, but from smaller communities and the local rink is a big part of our childhood," said Leclaire, 34, who retired in 2010 because of chronic hip injuries.
Gallant will make Golden Knights competitive, says MacLean, Leclaire
Gerard Gallant will make sure the Vegas Golden Knights aren't easy to play against in their inaugural season, according to Doug MacLean, his former boss with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
MacLean was the general manager of the expansion Blue Jackets when he hired Gallant to be an assistant coach in 2001.
"He'll do a great job, they'll be competitive," MacLean said during a festival to celebrate 2017 Kraft Hockeyville in O'Leary, Prince Edward Island. "He's a good hockey man."
Nobody in hockey knows the Golden Knights coach as well as MacLean, who first met Gallant when the latter was 10.
"I go back with Gerard so far. I taught Gerard in high school in Summerside," MacLean said, referencing the hometown in Prince Edward Island they share. "He was in my class in Grade 10. I met him when he was 10. I coached him in hockey here, I coached him in Detroit when he played there and I hired him to work for me and he worked for me for 10 years in Columbus. We go back forever."
Gallant, a left wing, played for the Detroit Red Wings from 1985-1993. MacLean was an assistant coach there from 1990-92.
Gallant started coaching with the Summerside Western Capitals, the same team MacLean started his coaching journey.
This summer, when both were home, MacLean invited his protégé to breakfast shortly before Gallant left for training camp with Vegas.
He is confident that Gallant can get the Golden Knights up to speed quickly. He sees a well-balanced team, anchored by goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who won the Stanley Cup three times with the Pittsburgh Penguins before being claimed in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft.
"The key, No. 1, will be goaltending," MacLean said. "Fleury and (Calvin) Pickard are going to have to be real good and they are capable of that, no doubt.
"He has a respectable blue line already. Up front, you'll always be challenged to score. Because of Gallant, they will have great chemistry. They'll be competitive, I think."
Retired goalie Pascal Leclaire, who played for Gallant in Columbus, also believes Vegas can hit the ground running.
"I think he is going to do really well. He is a player's coach," Leclaire said of Gallant. "He played the game before, so he knows what the players are going through. He had the experience with Columbus when we were a really young franchise when he coached there."
Gallant coached with the Blue Jackets from 2001-06. He went 56-76-4-6 in 142 games as their head coach. Gallant became coach of the Florida Panthers prior to the start of the 2014-15 season and was relieved of his duties after 22 games last season. Gallant went 96-65-25 in 186 games with the Panthers.
"We loved playing for Gerard because he would come talk to us and always be a positive guy," Leclaire said. "He obviously knows the game very, very well. He had success in Florida and his record speaks for itself. It's great to see him have another opportunity. Vegas is in very good hands with him."
Leclaire says Gallant's success with young players, in both Columbus and Florida, will be a plus with Vegas.
"When you are a young guy, the NHL is big and he is the perfect coach to bring along these young guys," Leclaire said, noting the patience Gallant showed toward him as he tried to find his way as the backup to Marc Denis. "He'll put them in good situations where they can do well."