By Darren Lum
Making the NHL is a dream of 10-year-old Eric Mueller’s.
The Haliburton youth got to live out that dream in some respects as a SENS Jr. Starter when the Ottawa Senators hosted the current Stanley Cup Champions the St. Louis Blues on Thursday Oct. 10 at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata a suburb of Ottawa.
The Atom-aged winger plays for the Highland Storm’s Rep Haliburton Timbermart Castle Cottage Country Building Supplies team. He was one of two lucky winners whose name was drawn at random. They received a prize package worth $300 which included a Senators replica jersey two 300 level tickets to the game the opportunity to carry the Sens flag onto the ice and stand with the Senators players on the blue line for the national anthem(s). To be eligible entrants must have been aged from seven to 12 and be registered on a Hockey Canada sanctioned team for the 2019 -2020 season.
The Grade 5 J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School student admitted he was nervous before he stepped on the ice and said the highlight of this overall “awesome” experience was being able to get to see the players up close and skate on an NHL ice where his favourite team for the last four years played.
He and the other winner skated in full equipment wearing Senators kit holding the Senators flag and completed close to a full loop of the rink which included the opportunity to skate by and fist bump the players on the benches. During the anthem he got to stand beside the Senators star defenceman Thomas Chabot who recently signed an eight-year deal with the club worth $64 million US – the most lucrative deal in team history. Chabot offered the nervous Eric some advice: You don’t have to be nervous. All you have to do is do what you’re doing.
Eric said the words of encouragement “meant a lot. It was awesome.”
His mother Andrea also appreciated the kind words.
“It was nice that they took the time to even talk because they’re concentrating on the game” she said.
The family was notified of winning the package through email.
Initially Mueller wasn’t sure if the email was spam or not.
“You’re not sure if it’s real or legit or not” she said.
She ended up believing the email because of her son’s friend Bryant Medlar who had won the year before and gave her the idea to apply back in September.
Her son isn’t one to get demonstrably emotional but she knew he was “really excited.”
Eric said it was difficult to get through his school day before making the three-plus hour drive with his parents to Ottawa from Haliburton. He said he spent much of the day staring at the cover of a book he had. It was a long day as the family didn’t return home until 2 a.m. so that everyone could go to work and school the next day.
The closest Eric had been to an NHL ice surface was last year when his parents purchased tickets for Christmas which were four rows from the boards. He said this was far better.
Mom and Dad made the trip to Ottawa with Eric purchasing an additional ticket grouped with the pair of seats won. They saw their son on the ice from the penalty box. Mueller said the game was entertaining despite the 6-4 loss.
“It was definitely an amazing experience. We got to both go down behind the scenes for both sets of parents. That was really nice. We had the opportunity to all go down during rehearsal. It was really good” she said.