In January of 2010 at the Ramada Inn on Kingsway Ave. in Edmonton, one thing stood when I first saw Curtis Lazar: his smile. It was bright and wide, that night, when he was called up to the stage at the John Reid Memorial bantam AAA hockey tournament.
Curtis was 14 years old. But he was already making an impression. Whispers circulated around the banquet room as Curtis accepted his award with the same three words: “Watch that guy.”
The Edmonton Oil Kings did, and they selected him second overall in the 2010 bantam draft. Curtis began his five-year tenure with the Oil Kings in the 2010-11 campaign and, very quickly, became the face of the franchise.
His smile kept getting wider and more meaningful.
And in the last week, there was plenty for him to smile about starting Friday night. That’s when Curtis ended the longest game in Memorial Cup history in the third overtime period when he scored to give the Oil Kings a 4-3 win over the Val-d’Or Foreurs.
But his biggest hockey smiles came Sunday when he hoisted the hardware — the Memorial Cup — after the Oil Kings beat the Guelph Storm 6-3 in London, Ont.
Curtis was part of a core group of Oil Kings — Griffin Reinhart, Henrik Samuelsson Mitch Moroz, Cody Corbett and Tristian Jarry — who made it to the Mastercard Memorial Cup two years ago in Quebec. They weren’t pleased with their 1-3 record, but they got something that would, perhaps, be invaluable: experience.
So when they had another shot — just two seasons later — they knew what it would take to get the job done.
In the end, it paid off. And when the Oil Kings arrive home at the Edmonton International Airport shortly before 12 noon Monday, they will have the Memorial Cup — just seven years after they were award a Western Hockey League expansion franchise.
Remarkable. Absolutely remarkable.
From their first GM Bob Green, their first coach Steve Pleau, to the current coaching staff of Derek Laxdal and Steve Hamilton; from equipment manager Rogan Dean and trainer Brian Cheesman, and so many others who have a hand in the Oil King success, it’s been wonderful to watch.
But whenever he’s in Edmonton he’ll flash that million dollar Curtis Lazar smile.
Because he has many special memories here.