SUMMERSIDE, Prince Edward Island -- The trip became a success for Ottawa Senators forward Nate Thompson before he even took the ice. He already has a fish story to take home.
Thompson was among a group of Senators that used an off day on their trip to 2017 Kraft Hockeyville Canada on Sunday to go fishing.
The Senators play the New Jersey Devils at Credit Union Place on Monday (6 p.m. ET; SN1, NHLN, NHL.TV) to conclude three days of celebrations in and around the town of O'Leary, which won the right to host the event.
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Several players in the group caught fish, but Thompson is the only one to catch a halibut.
"The captain said it was about 60 or 70 pounds and it took 10 or 15 minutes to pull in," Thompson said. "I was a little tired afterward. Maybe feeling it today from the halibut; he wore me out."
Unfortunately, Thompson had to release the fish as halibut is out of season. But, that will allow him to exaggerate the catch if he wants.
"It might go up 25 pounds," he said.
It still won't be the biggest halibut Thompson has reeled in; he says he has caught a 125-pounder in the past.
Every Senators player had a good story about a Sunday spent away from hockey on the island. Some, like Thompson, went fishing. Others went golfing.
Defenseman Dion Phaneuf, an alternate captain for the Senators, has a summer home on Prince Edward Island. He organized the outings and invited the team to his place in the evening.
It was a fantastic day involving the sea, sun, some local food delicacies and even some football on TV at night. It did not involve hockey, which was a welcome break for the Senators, who have been going at it for close to two weeks since the start of training camp.
"It's pretty special to have your whole team over to where you spend your summers," Phaneuf said. "We enjoyed our day yesterday, got away from the game for the day and that is always healthy.
"I know everyone on the island is excited, but for our team and our training camp, I thought it was really good timing."
It has also been great to give his summer community a taste of the NHL, something many of them have only experienced through television.
"For it to be here, I know it means a lot to PEI," Phaneuf said.
It also seemed to mean a lot to the players from the Senators, as well as the Devils, to give a little back to the community on the day of the game.
It started with a walk of the red carpet into the arena, taking pictures and signing autographs with local school children bussed in from O'Leary, which is 45 minutes away. Then, it involved pregame skates taken before a sold-out crowd at the arena. At times, it was so loud that some of the players said they had trouble hearing instructions from the coaches.
"It adds some excitement for us," said Ottawa center Kyle Turris, who is making his preseason debut. "A sold-out morning skate was pretty neat."
Bringing the rituals of an NHL game day to PEI is something Senators coach Guy Boucher was excited to do. He knows the area well from his early coaching days in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, which has teams located in Charlottetown, PEI, Halifax, Nova Scotia and Moncton, New Brunswick. He knows the passion the population here has for the game, which is the island's lifeblood in the winter.
But he also knows that the NHL is a different animal than the junior and senior league hockey that dominates the area.
"Hockey is always here, but I think the best hockey in the world is played by NHL players and for the fans and youngsters and older people to be able to feel it; because that is what it is, [a feeling]," Boucher said. "It's a great show on TV and I think it is part of our culture to follow the NHL. But, to actually feel it in front of you, to be that close, I think that is special. I love these outings where you can connect with the fans.
"Everyone started out at the same place. I was them years ago, and the players were them. There are some kids in the stands here that maybe one day they will be walking a red carpet and practicing in front of fans. It's a great give back process and it is a terrific opportunity to watch and feel our national sport."
And, for Phaneuf, it was even more special because of the kinship he feels with the people here, those that lined up at 7:30 a.m. to greet the Ottawa bus for the morning skate.
"I have lots of family and friends here, so I got to be good [tonight]," Phaneuf said, only half-joking, as he walked to the bus after the morning skate.