The Chicago Blackhawks officially returned to the ice on Thursday for the start of training camp, and, of course, all eyes were on Connor Bedard. It's the first NHL camp for Chicago's No. 1 overall pick, and even he admitted it was kind of a pinch-me moment.
"It’s just exciting," Bedard said. "Once you’re on the ice, it’s hockey, and you try not to be star-struck or whatever, anything like that. But yeah, waking up and talking to my parents last night about it, it’s pretty special. To be here with the fans in this city and everything, it’s remarkable. I feel super fortunate. It’s definitely a dream right now."
It was packed house at Fifth Third Arena, with Chicago fans lining up the doors and stands to check out the organization's prized possession. There was even a mini team shop set up near the entrance of the practice facility with Bedard jerseys and hoodies on display.
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"I haven’t thought about it too much, but those first few times, it’s pretty crazy to think about, I guess," Bedard said of fans wearing his jersey. "You see someone wearing your jersey, I think that’s pretty cool. It’s weird to think about but when you’re in the moment, you’re not too weird about it. But definitely now when you sit back."
Bedard put on a show in his unofficial team debut over the weekend at the prospect showcase event in Minnesota, but playing in the NHL is obviously a different beast. There will be an adjustment period for Bedard — something tells me he'll pick it up just fine — and training camp is the first step towards getting acclimated to the pro level.
"I think just figuring out what it’s like playing against these guys," Bedard said. "I always say you never really know until you’re in a game what you’ve got to improve on or whatever. Just now, trying to work on everything and be a sponge out here in video and with all the guys, just learn as much as I can. I think that’s all I can do right now."