Light up his name on the marquee.
Pepper him with questions.
Heck, if the NHL rolled out the red carpet for every game, Connor Bedard would probably enjoy that, too.
You have to remind yourself that the kid who many expect to eventually take over the NHL just turned 18 in July. The way he carries himself makes it seem like he has been on the professional circuit for years.
The opposite, of course, is true.
When Bedard steps onto the ice with the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night at Scotiabank Arena to play the Maple Leafs, he will be skating in an NHL game for only the fourth time, as what should be a Hall of Fame career continues to take its baby steps.
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Already, Bedard has been getting significant tastes of what the NHL entails and to no surprise he has not flinched.
A first faceoff against Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby. Getting booed by the passionate, all-knowing fans in Montreal, who don’t bother spewing jeers at players they don’t consider worthy. And in between, Bedard’s first NHL goal in Boston against the Bruins.
Toronto marks the penultimate stop on a five-game trip to start 2023-24 for the Blackhawks, a trek that ends in Colorado against the Avalanche on Thursday.
Bedard, who has three points in three games, has loved every minute of it.
“It has been a lot of fun,” the 2023 No. 1 pick said on Sunday afternoon after the Blackhawks practised at the Ford Performance Centre.
“Coming in, you never know what to expect. When I found out we started on this trip, I was really excited for the home openers, the Canadian markets, Montreal’s home opener, that was pretty cool.
“There has been a lot of media, a lot of attention, but I’m focused on playing hockey. Getting to enjoy the experience of it all has been great.”
The Blackhawks, who expect to get Taylor Hall back on Monday after the 2018 Hart Trophy winner missed one game with an upper-body injury, gladly recognize Bedard’s burgeoning place in the game.
“Connor is another part of that special piece in Blackhawks history and to play against the Maple Leafs is going to be a fun night in the rink,” Chicago coach Luke Richardson said. “He loves playing hockey, but he seems to love the highest level of competition. He has always rose to the occasion on that, so I think that’s another good one for him to be in (Monday) night.
“It’s another Original Six team. There is a lot of history and lot of different demographics in the crowd that are remembering different eras and they want this to be special, too.”
For Bedard, the game against the Leafs will carry some extra weight. He’ll play against Auston Matthews, one of his hockey idols, and Leafs rookie Fraser Minten, a close friend and teammate from their minor-hockey days in Vancouver.
“Matthews and all those guys, they have a lot of guys that I’ve watched for a long time,” Bedard said. “Me and Minten were talking about it after he made the team. I was really pumped for him and that’ll be awesome (to play against him).”
Bedard had his first special moment in Toronto, as he and Hawks teammate Kevin Korchinski were presented with their 2023 world junior championship gold-medal rings by Hockey Canada executive Scott Salmond.
As practice concluded, Bedard was among the last players on the ice. At one end, fans crammed themselves along the glass on the outer wall, hoping to catch Bedard’s attention.
“It’s cool, for sure,” Bedard said. “Getting to have an impact on kids and people is a privilege and it’s something that I try to not take lightly. I try to take my time with as many fans as possible … getting to be in that position, I’m really lucky and fortunate for that.”
From afar, the Leafs have admired Bedard’s grace.
“That’s what makes the elite players so good; (it) is not just their ability, but to be able to handle all the demands, the expectations, the noise around them,” Leafs captain John Tavares said. “It’s extremely impressive how he carries himself. Very well-spoken, very humble and very driven. Enjoys playing the game and doesn’t put too much stock into anything. He wants to go out there and be great and compete. He’s a special talent.”