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Sens Skills always provide thrills

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Ten-year-old Cody Ceci (left) still looks back fondly upon the day he shared the ice with Mike Fisher (12), Zdeno Chara (on bench) and the rest of the Senators at the 2004 Sens Skills competition (Freestyle Photography).

Someday soon, Cody Ceci hopes to enjoy an even bigger National Hockey League moment.

But for the time being, the Ottawa 67's defenceman will continue to look back fondly upon the afternoon he spent shining alongside some of his favourite NHL players.

The occasion was the 2004 Sens Skills competition and Ceci — a wide-eyed 10-year-old Cumberland Barons atom player back then — got the chance to rub shoulders with the likes of Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher. Six years later, it's still a "pretty special" memory.

"It was a while ago, so I wasn't really thinking of down the road (at an NHL career) yet," said Ceci, 16, who isn't draft eligible until 2012. "I was just playing and enjoying it. Now, when I look back at it, I see how great of an opportunity it was and how much fun I really did have and how lucky I was to actually go out there and do that."

Not that the magnitude of the moment didn't strike him at the time. Ceci still remembers "getting up really early" that day and being so nervous, "I didn't want to eat." Then there was the matter of the thousands of fans in the stands at Scotiabank Place that afternoon, eager to see the Senators put on a fun display of their skills.

"It was insane," said Ceci, the 67's top pick in last year's Ontario Hockey League draft. "They called us out and we were standing on the blue line, and I remember just looking around at all the people. It was so loud. I'd never experienced anything like that in my life."

Soon enough, they were cheering for Ceci as he whipped around the ice in 16.633 seconds in the fastest skater competition. Amazingly enough, it was only about two seconds behind the slowest recorded time by a Senators player (Petr Schastlivy, 14.755). Antoine Vermette, a frequent champion in the event, won this one in 13.709.

"I was really surprised when I saw the clock when I was done," said Ceci. "I guess I had an adrenalin rush in front of all those people."

Cody Ceci, now a defenceman with the Ottawa 67's, flashed his skating speed during the 2004 Sens Skills event.
The Senators were pretty impressed themselves as the watched Ceci in full sprint.

"I think I was standing beside Fisher and (former Senators defenceman Zdeno) Chara and I was just looking at how tall Chara was," he said. "After that skate, they were all pretty excited for me and pretty happy and all being really nice guys. I remember Alfredsson broke his stick and he gave me the shaft of his stick.

"They gave us jerseys with our names on them and socks. I still have them in my room."

All of which just did more to fuel the Senators fan inside him.

"I was a fan and I still am," said Ceci, who calls Fisher and Alfredsson his favourite Senators players. "I like watching them. They're a pretty good team. I grew up going to their games, so it was pretty special to be on the ice with them."

The 2010 edition of Sens Skills presented by Metro is set for Sunday at 1 p.m. at Scotiabank Place. Ceci's advice for the minor hockey players taking part in this one?

"Drop the nerves and just enjoy it," he said. "That was a big thing for me. I remember being really nervous going out in front of all those people but five minutes into it, I just remember having the time of my life."

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