Loving Laine

Fans eager for first glimpse of highly touted Finnish draft pick

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He didn’t skate, nor will he be a participant at this week’s Winnipeg Jets development camp, but there was no question who the most popular prospect was as the weeklong camp kicked off Sunday afternoon.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/07/2016 (2337 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

He didn’t skate, nor will he be a participant at this week’s Winnipeg Jets development camp, but there was no question who the most popular prospect was as the weeklong camp kicked off Sunday afternoon.

Patrik Laine didn’t take two steps off the staircase at the MTS Iceplex before the first black Sharpie marker was handed to him. The Jets’ No. 2 overall selection put in a good workout as he practised his signature dozens of times, signing everything from pucks and hats to the bare back of one gentleman who had his child perched on his shoulders.

It was the first real-life glimpse fans have got of the Finnish sensation, and he certainly left his mark on those who met him, including youngsters Aidan Labossiere, 12, and Thomas Kiesman, 11, who were among the first people to get an autograph and a selfie with Laine.

“It was pretty nice. He asked us what our names were and how to spell them,” said Thomas, pointing to the shiny silver signature stretched across his Jets puck. “It was pretty jaw-dropping. We’re lost for words right now.”

The two friends paid close attention to Laine leading up to the draft and were both thrilled when they found out the Jets would pick second.

“I just remember the (draft) lottery, me and my dad were watching, and we went crazy when they announced Columbus was third and we were getting at least second,” Aidan said. “I knew we were getting a good player now.”

Laine has spent the last week in Winnipeg, participating in Mark Scheifele’s golf tournament and getting acquainted with his new place of work — his new hometown, in his own words.

“It’s quite amazing to see how many people have come here, it’s been good,” said Laine, who was signed to an entry-level contract with the club moments before stepping into his first scrum with local reporters.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESSPatrik Laine signs autographs during Winnipeg Jets development camp at MTS Iceplex, Sunday, July 3, 2016.

When asked if he was surprised by the celebrity status he owns around Winnipeg, Laine remained humble.

“I think I’m not the biggest star here, there are some bigger stars here,” he said. “I think I’m going to love being here and make this town my new hometown.”

That’s music to the ears of those who came to watch the first day of camp, including Wes Wiens, who bought his Laine jersey in May, long before the Jets made him an official member of the club.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Wiens said with his wife and four children in tow. “He looks like a talented kid. I bought into the hype of him signing here.”

Meanwhile, nearly 40 other prospects hit the ice during Sunday’s two afternoon sessions. Mattia Martinello and his father, Giorgio, looked on from behind the glass, taking in their first live hockey event.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESSFans waiting to get an autograph from Patrik Laine during Winnipeg Jets development camp at MTS Iceplex, Sunday, July 3, 2016.

The father and son are in town from Italy for a friend’s graduation and decided to stop by the MTS Iceplex to take in Canada’s pastime Sunday.

“It’s interesting, I’ve only seen it on TV,” Mattia said shortly after taking a selfie with the rink in the background. “In Italy, it is not famous. We play soccer.”

Mattia was still reeling from Italy’s shootout loss to Germany Saturday.

Sam Thompson brought his two daughters, six-year-old Liz and two-year-old Olivia, to give them a chance to watch the game they love watching at home on TV.

“The regular games are a little expensive to take the whole family to, so this gives them a chance to come see it first-hand,” Thompson said. “I’ve read about a lot of these (prospects), so it’s nice to see them and put a face to the names.”

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESSPatrik Laine signs an autograph for Jackson Kerger, 7, during Winnipeg Jets development camp at MTS Iceplex, Sunday, July 3, 2016.

scott.billeck@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @scottbilleck

History

Updated on Sunday, July 3, 2016 11:49 PM CDT: Updated

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