The only thing missing were the regular shouts of “Car!”
Then again, Sunday’s event in Spirit Square was no ordinary game of road hockey.
Few contests feature two separate games, dozens of kids (accompanied by their equally excited parents) or a full fledged barbecue for snacking between shifts, fried onions and all.
And fewer still feature world class hockey players.
Golden’s favourite NHL player was on hand to give the kids, and parents, a treat they won’t soon forget as Curtis McKenzie spent the afternoon in Spirit Square shooting tennis balls, signing autographs and taking photos in an event that was organized by the Rotary Club of Golden.
Youth of all ages participated in the game by donation, and besides the fact that it was for a good cause, it was surely money well spent for the rare opportunity to match up with an NHLer.
“It was fun. All of the kids out here are a lot of fun and definitely a fun age. I remember being back this young. I’ve been back here with the hockey school and it’s fun to see these guys again this summer. I’m lucky that the Rotary Club put this event on,” said McKenzie, a member of the Dallas Stars.
McKenzie, who is back in Golden for a short time before he begins his rigorous off-season training program, says it’s always nice to come home after the grind of a pro hockey season.
“I love coming home, it’s definitely a spot where you can reset the mind and just relax. I’ve been trying to take advantage of the outdoor activities around town and it’s great seeing my friends and family,” he said.
It’s been another whirlwind season for the Stars forward.
A year after being named the AHL’s Rookie of the Year and being a part of the Calder Cup-winning Texas Stars, McKenzie made an impact at the next level in 2014/2015.
The 6’2” winger made his NHL debut on Oct. 18 against the Philadelphia Flyers, scored his first goal on Nov. 16 against the Chicago Blackhawks, and ended up playing 36 games in the NHL while splitting his time between the AHL and the NHL.
“It was a pretty wild year…I just couldn’t believe that I was playing in the NHL. It was pretty lucky to get to that stage of the career and I’m excited that I got that out of the way now and to be able to make strides to be there full time,” he said.
After what will surely be a busy off-season of training, McKenzie says training camp in the fall will have a different feel for him this year, having already shown that he can play at the top level.
“Now I know what it takes to get there…and I want to make an impact to stay. I think it’s definitely a different mindset this year from last year,” he said.
And it’s pretty clear where Golden’s allegiances lie as McKenzie battles for a spot with the big club, with numerous #11 Dallas Stars sweaters dotting Spirit Square Sunday afternoon.
“It’s overwhelming actually. I’ve always had people my whole career that are really great to me and supporting me wherever I go and I hear about it through my parents, about how the town’s always asking about me. It’s definitely overwhelming to hear about that,” McKenzie said.