Four former NHL players re-lived their minor hockey days Sunday morning during Kraft Hockeyville, showing up at the J.L. Grightmire Arena bright and early to give hockey clinics to kids of the Dundas Minor Hockey Association.
"They were excited," said Buffalo Sabres’ alumnus Dave Andreychuk, who was joined by Brad Marsh, Danny Gare and Shawn McEachern. "Especially when you think it’s Sunday morning at 8 a.m., they were all excited."
Joshua Hagen was so excited that his mother, Jennifer Hagen, had trouble getting him to bed Saturday night.
"He was up probably at about 5:30 a.m.," Hagen said. "We came here last night to just to peek in the windows to see what it looked like and as soon as he saw the scoreboard that had been changed and updated with the Sabres and Senators logos, he was jumping for joy. It was like Christmas for him."
Christmas, thanks to Kraft Hockeyville, also came a little early for Mom. With her three boys, Hagen is at the rink a minimum of six times a week during the season, and like most rinks around Canada, it isn't the warmest of places on a cold winter day.
"You know what's really great," Hagen exclaimed excitedly. "They repaired all the heaters with the prize money, so in a couple of months, we'll have heat again. It's the best part for the moms that have to be here bright and early."
Ten-year-old Joshua really couldn't care less if his mother was warm or had no sleep -- for him, it was about the hockey and it was completely worth getting up early and being on the ice with the former NHL players.
"I learned lots of things, it was really fun," said Joshua, who is related to former Penguin John Cullen.
On the other side of the rink in between the pipes was 9-year-old Caleb Kierstead, who happens to be another Dundasian related to a former NHL player. Kierstead is the great-great nephew of Canadiens legend Dickie Moore.
Kierstead, who played goal for two sessions, was shy about his on-ice performance, but his mother Debbie said he had fun stopping the shots of NHL players.
"He's in his glory," she said proudly.
But it wasn't just the players having fun on the ice. Dundas Minor Hockey Association coaches were also on hand to help with the kids and learn a few new tricks.
"I threw Brad (Marsh) a pass and I missed the stick and he gave me a bit of a tip and said, 'Make sure it's on my stick,'" coach Jeff McDonald said, laughing. "It's fun. I really appreciate this opportunity."
Coach Rick Kunc, the principal at the local Westmount Secondary School, was equally ecstatic.
"I'm as excited as the kids," Kunc said. "Maybe more so, because I know who the players are. I watch them, so it's really exciting."
And finally, the NHL players themselves were just happy to be here early in the morning and support Kraft Hockeyville.
"I think it's just a great idea," said Marsh, a former Senators defenseman. "Everybody in Canada knows that minor hockey and the community hockey rink bind the community together. It plays itself out every weekend, through the hockey season, through every community. So for Kraft Hockeyville to come in and give a shot in the arm for this community and the finalist, it's just fabulous."
A shot in the arm that minor hockey league players like Joshua Hagen and Caleb Kierstead will never forget.