Hockey is the best, a central Alberta fan said with excitement after taking a photo with former NHL player Glen Wesley.
The fan, Steel Wagner, plays for Red Deer Minor Hockey and “likes playing for Red Deer.”
When Wagner grows older, he wants to “play for the NHL or get a good-paying job.”
The Red Deer-born Wesley was signing autographs and snapping photos with fans like Wagner Sunday at Rogers Hometown Hockey.
Wesley was drafted by the Boston Bruins and played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Hartford Whalers and Carolina Hurricanes during his 20-year NHL career.
Events such as Hometown Hockey help young people connect with NHL-level players. This inspires the young people, which in turn helps grow hockey in Canada, said Wesley.
“Kids are able to throw gloves on and put a stick in their hands, and that’s how you start,” he said.
“It’s the grassroots atmosphere here and young players can understand the rules and are able to appreciate the game.”
Wesley said he saw children wanting to take a selfie with their favourite players, or collect an autograph at the event. Some kids are shy, while others are more forthcoming, he said.
“I saw one young gentleman, and he came up to me, and I bend down to him, and you could tell he’s shy. So I said, ‘give me a high-five.’”
Wesley hopes to make an impact on children, so they’re able to enjoy the game as much as he did in the city when he was younger, before leaving Red Deer when he was a teen.
He said he returns to the city once a year when he visits family.
“I have a lot of great memories here (in Red Deer).
“When you come back and you see your city, and as you grow older, you appreciate what you had.”