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In part one of my Skate with the Canes recap, I talked about the first of three sessions that allowed for a lot of interaction with the players, including my some of my favorites – Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, Eddie Lack and Kris Versteeg.

The second session of the day didn’t allow for as much one-on-one time with players, but I did have the chance to tell rookie Noah Hanifin that I bought my skates at Medford Square Sporting Goods long before he was even born. (And, yes, that makes me feel very old!)

Hanifin was one of four players posing for a group photo in the team’s weight room. I snuck in between Riley Nash and Brett Pesce while Brad Malone was on end opposite from Noah for what could have substituted for an old school photo. Everyone is so prim and proper.

Locker Room Photos

Locker Room Photo sessions with Captain Eric Staal and the boys.

The second photo op featured me sandwiched between Victor Rask and Eric Staal with Michal Jordan and Brock McGinn as bookends. As much as I enjoyed seeing the locker room area with all its murals and hockey equipment, it wasn’t really a highlight of the day. Honestly, I was shocked at how small the area is in comparison to other NHL and college locker rooms I’ve seen. I remember even the visitor’s at the old Capitals arena in Landover, Md. had larger accommodations.

The final 40 minutes was an autograph session with the remaining eight players and also included a brief opportunity to meet and greet the Carolina Hurricanes broadcast crew. I’ve listened to Chuck Kaiton on the radio and John Forslund as the television play-by-play since the team was in Hartford so I jumped at the chance to say hello. Forslund and I also have the Springfield Falcons in common so we reminisced about my old boss there. When I introduced myself to the Canes color analyst Tripp Tracy, I told him we had met before, that in fact, I interviewed both he and his roommate Jason Karmanos (who is the assistant general manager in Pittsburgh) twice in college. Michelle McMahon also remembered me from our interview during the 5K back in September.

Canes Broadcast

Locker Room Photo sessions with Captain Eric Staal and the boys.

Finally, we were able to step up to the tables to meet the players. I wished Phillip Di Giuseppe well as he was recuperating from a concussion at the time. He is such a spectacular addition to the Skinner and Rask line. I told John Michael-Liles, another favorite, that we’d come up from Florida and would see him in Tampa on March 5 when the Canes play the Bolts, but I was so angry later that I never took a photo with those two. Elias Lindholm and Cam Ward rounded out that four.

Skate with the Canes 2

Selfies with (clockwise from top left) Andrej Nestrasil and Jay McClement, Cam Ward and Justin Faulk and Jaccob Slavin. Plus a jersey worth of signatures.

The second table was Andrej Nestrasil and Jay McClement. I borrowed Nesty’s long arms for a selfie before moving on to Justin Faulk and lastly, Jaccob Slavin. I don’t think poor Slavin understands how to take a selfie.

Skate with the Canes may be a benefit for the Hurricanes Kids and Community Foundation but I’m not entirely certain that I didn’t benefit from the experience myself. I’d love to make it an annual trip to Raleigh.

Disbelief.

I’m pinching myself in between moments of staring at the lock screen on my iPhone.

Two weeks later, I still question whether I truly skated with my Carolina Hurricanes, but here I am wearing the signed jersey (that’s two sizes too big) and staring at this particular picture. Me. Sitting on the visiting bench at PNC Arena. Next to my favorite player Jeff Skinner.

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Hanging with my favorite player Jeff Skinner.

Pardon while I squeal in glee.

A little background…I’ve been a Carolina Hurricanes fan since they wore blue and green and were called the Hartford Whalers. And ever since I heard about the Skate with Canes event, I wanted to buy a ticket and participate. I mean, it’s the chance for fans to get close to the team for the afternoon, participating in three activities each with a different set of players at each station.

As part of the silver group, our first stop was the skate. The opportunity to skate on NHL ice. Serious quality, fresh NHL ice especially because we were the first group. Even if I wasn’t there with my boys in the red and white, still the chance of a lifetime.

I bumped into Chris Terry first – almost literally. We took a quick selfie but then I noticed Skinner as I made a loop at center ice, filming each slide of my blades for posterity as they pass over the PNC Arena logo. I headed straight over to the visitor’s bench to hop in the photo line. I’ve been a fan of Skinner’s since his rookie season when he won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. The guy can skate and has some serious skill with the puck. (I don’t know that I’ve forgiven the league for not awarding him the NHL Player of the Week when he had two hat tricks earlier in the season.)

I was also able to catch Jordan Staal in the penalty box – not that he spends a lot of time there usually – and Kris Versteeg was hanging out at center ice. I can say that I became a fan of “Steeger” that day. Such a laidback guy, but I wouldn’t expect any less of a Lethbridge boy.

Skate With the Canes 1

With (clockwise from top left) Chris Terry, Jordan Staal, Kris Versteeg and Ron Hainsey

Before we moved on to the locker room. I also tried my luck at stickhandling and shooting. Not many times, you have the opportunity to shoot on an NHL goalie. Eddie Lack was a very helpful coach, pointing out when I left the puck at the last cone – how embarrassing. Once I retrieved it, I shot and scored!!! I wasn’t as lucky against defenseman Ron Hainsey, missing the net entirely. His comment: “You have to dump the puck in sometimes.” Indeed.

Eddie Lack

She shoots, she scores! Sorry, Eddie.

Stay tuned for the second part of my recap to be posted tomorrow. I survived the Canes locker room and had a reunion with Tripp Tracy, John Forslund and Michelle McMahon before the player autograph session.