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PRINCIPE: Can I have your attention?

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
Photo by Getty Images

I must admit I forgot. I had forgotten, over the last three months, what it's like to be around Connor McDavid or maybe better put what it's like when Connor McDavid is around. It is pure madness as so many are crazy for Connor. They are at the games, practices, team bus, team hotel and maybe a few have even tried to sneak into his room. It never stops.

When the team arrived in Montreal under the cover of darkness, there they were waiting for Connor as he went to bed. They were there first thing in the morning and when he came back from practice. 'They' can be little kids, teenagers, adult men or women. Everyone wants a glimpse, a signature, a photo or anything they can lay claim to for their moment with McDavid.

It was interesting in Ottawa as I chatted with Marc Ciampa, the Oilers Director of Digital Media and Publications, about McDavid. Marc said, “I’ve never been on the road with McDavid. Is this what it's like?"

Yes, Marc. It is, and you have to live it to understand it. I mean, Henry Burris, the Ottawa Red Blacks quarterback, with some help from a friend of a friend was at the morning skate. He was with his family and his kids were wearing McDavid t-shirts. You won't meet a nicer person than Smilin’ Hank, and guess who he was hoping to meet? You guessed it: Connor McDavid. The CFL's Most Outstanding Player joins the long list of people, famous or not, who gravitate to the 19-year-old.

It's also a road trip where the attention in the East has been directed towards Zack Kassian. Reporters made the drive from Montreal to Ottawa and then more of them greeted him upon his return to the Bell Centre. This story not so warm and fuzzy compared to the Oilers number 97. Kassian left Montreal in a trade for Ben Scrivens right after the Christmas roster freeze was over. The winger was in a bad place after an early-morning accident in Montreal was his last stop before entering the NHL substance abuse program. Kassian was, as he explained it, at 'rock bottom'.

He faced some tough questions. The just turned 25-year-old answered them honestly and most importantly from the heart. "No, I’m not looking for redemption" were the first words out of his mouth when asked if that's what he was looking for against Montreal. Instead, he went on to say, “I’m happy being with the Edmonton Oilers and I'm more mad at myself for screwing up."

End quote.

Pretty clear who he is blaming for where he was in his life. While he is a pain in the you know what on the ice, he's pretty quiet and reserved when he isn't chirping, poking, cross-checking and doing many other things to opponents.

I'd say he's lost about 15 pounds from the previous Zack Kassian we knew. He also lost his way along a path to the NHL. Now, Kassian's found a 'happy place'.

“I don't want to go back there,” explained the Oiler. "It's a day-by-day thing and the biggest thing that's changed is my mindset. I'm still the same person but now I know what's at stake."

It's been an interesting couple of days around two Oilers who, for two different reasons, are attracting attention about their life and their hockey.
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