There was a electric buzz at the Shaw Centre on Friday afternoon as the Salmon Arm Hockey School was in full swing.
Hometown hockey hero, Captain Canada and Ottawa Senator Curtis Lazar made an appearance at the annual hockey school, much to the delight of the young hockey players.
“I am happy to come out to the school for the day since the Pro-Am game was unfortunately cancelled,” said the ever-smiling Lazar.
“This is my first time back in Salmon Arm this year, it’s nice to be here.”
On the ice Lazar helped out with drills, and took part in the scrimmages at the end of each ice time, showing off his NHL calibre talent as he weaved between the kids.
Between ice times, the 17th overall draft pick in 2013, took time to meet his young fans, sign autographs and take pictures.
The line up quickly grew and before long the line stretched past the concession and out into the main lobby of the Shaw Centre.
Lazar took the time to speak with each of the young fans that he met.
“It’s always nice to meet fans, especially the kids,” said Lazar humbly.
Last year Lazar made his debut in the NHL and captained Canada to a gold medal at the world junior championships.
“Curtis was one of my students way back in kindergarten. It’s really exciting to see what he has accomplished so far and what he will accomplish in the future. I’m very proud of him,” said Roy Sakaki, Salmon Arm Minor Hockey administrator.
Looking ahead to the up-and-coming NHL season, Lazar is optimistic.
“I saw big strides in my game after the world juniors. I was more confident out there finding a home with (Jean-Gabriel) Pageau and (Erik) Condra. When you get familiar on the ice and comfortable, it does help you out. You can play more of your game. The run we went on with (Andrew Hammond) The Hamburglar and just the way we fought our way into the playoffs, it was a season I’ll never forget.”
He said he has enjoyed the off season — being able to return home has left him feeling rejuvenated.
Currently, Lazar is staying in Kelowna skating with a dozen other NHLers including Cody Franson, Shea Weber, Tyler Myers and brothers Brayden and Luke Schenn.