I have been very lucky in my life. From my late teens to my mid twenties, I was lucky enough to work at a Hockey School just outside of Toronto, Ontario. Here I was, this kid from Connecticut traveling each summer up to the Mecca of hockey. Having the chance to work with some hockey legends. Scott Stevens, Doug Gilmore, Joe Thornton just to name a few. Stars Hockey Camp in Guelph, Ontario (about 90 minutes from Toronto) gave me some truly incredible memories in the eight summers I was lucky enough to spend. It also enabled me to meet and work with two Flyers legends. Eric Lindros and Keith Primeau. And I can honestly say this. As great as they were as Hockey players, they were even better people.
It was July 1996. I had just walked my group of campers (30 of them), to the rink from our dorm rooms. The campers were waiting in front of our locker room. I walked to the other end of the rink to get the keys and opened up the door and sitting in his chair getting his skates on to go on the ice with us was Eric Lindros.
Fresh off his 47 goal 115 point season with the Flyers. I stood at the door and Eric stood up, walked over to me with only one skate tied and introduced himself with his hand out. “Hi, I’m Eric.” I shook his hand and introduced myself to him. Something so simple, yet so respectful. Here was the most dominating player in the league just introducing himself to me with absolute graciousness. The campers gravitated to Eric. He was so engaging not only to me, but all of the staff and kids. The Big E was finally inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame after too long of a wait. Eric deserves to be there. As great as he was on the ice, he is an even better person off of it.
During that same summer, I was also lucky enough to meet Keith Primeau. Keith is just like one of the guys. He was very easy to talk to, very engaging. I remember standing on the ice next to him listening to him answer questions from the campers and looking at the kids as the eyes were locked on him. Taking in every word and every piece of advice. I was lucky enough to work with Keith for a few years, and he actually remembered my name each year
. But one moment I will never forget made me admire him even more. It was the summer of 1999 and Keith had finished his season with the Carolina Hurricanes. Tragedy had struck the Canes shortly after their season ended as defenseman Steve Chaisson passed away in an automobile accident. Keith held a Q &A with all the campers and a question was asked about his teammate. Keith got choked up and had to take a minute. All 250 campers started clapping and cheering for Keith as he gathered himself. He showed a human side. Real, raw feelings and emotion from an NHL All Star showing his human side. It was a wow moment.
Its widely agreed that Hockey players are different than most other professional athletes. I can absolutely attest to that. They are amazing athletes and even better people off the ice. In the hallway of my home are two pictures. One is of Eric and myself, the other is of Keith and myself. I was lucky enough to skate on the same ice as two two amazing people, who just happen to be amazing hockey players.