SALT LAKE CITY — The temperature was in the mid-80s, the morning air already getting heavy. But inside the Salt Lake City Sports Complex, it was cool as could be, both literally and figuratively.
An ice rink, an NHL hockey player and a skating mayor can make that happen.
The occasion was the return of Trevor Lewis of the Los Angeles Kings. He previously played on youth hockey clubs in the Salt Lake Valley and spent a year on Brighton High's team, before moving to Colorado Springs, where the serious up-and-comers train.
Lewis appeared on Thursday for the announcement of venues for the USA Hockey High School National Championships. Approximately 1,100 players, coaches, fans, referees and officials will converge in Salt Lake next March 21-25. The amazing part: Most of them still have all their teeth.
You don't usually start losing your ivories until you've played at a variety of levels.
Thursday's event was both informative and entertaining. The games will be at the Sports Complex and the Maverik Center, which is only fitting. Back when the Maverik Center was still the E Center, Lewis saw several games during the 2002 Winter Olympics. At age 15, he was already thinking of making hockey his vocation. But seeing international and NHL stars up close stirred him to a new level.
"It was awesome, one of those big moments in my life where I said, 'I like this. This is what I want to do,' " Lewis said.
Still just 24 years old, Lewis is the only current NHL player from Utah and the only one to compete in Utah prep hockey. Last season he appeared in 72 games for the Kings, scoring three goals and adding 10 assists. He started playing at age 2, the son of a Canadian, which says it all. If your dad is from north of the 49th parallel, you must play hockey, or as they say in Canada, you'll be sore-y.
Originally committed to playing collegiately at Michigan, Lewis instead went to Des Moines of the USHL, then Owen Sound of the OHL and Manchester of the AHL. He was the No. 17 pick of the 2006 NHL Draft, an unheard-of accomplishment for a native Utahn.
At the same time, he has never abandoned his hometown. He still lives in the Brighton High area in the offseason; his parents still live close by. He appeared at Thursday's event simply to support having next year's national tournament in Utah. Meanwhile, he took the time to rocket a few shots into the net.
Impressive as Lewis' shooting was, the story of the day might have been Salt Lake County mayor Peter Corroon's performance. He donned skates and, while still wearing a suit and tie, shushed smoothly about the rink. Politicians and media had their shots timed by a speed gun as part of the promotion. Corroon's shot registered a respectable 54 mph — bad for a hockey player but great for a politician. Lewis' shot was 85 mph.
Oh, well, Lewis wouldn't be as good as Corroon in a town hall meeting.
Either way, the NHL center was agreeable and engaging, signing autographs and posing with kids, which really doesn't seem surprising. Among pro athletes, hockey players are generally considered the most likable.
"Definitely true," he said. "It's a different breed. Everyone's great. You can watch two big fighters out on the ice and the next thing you know, they're at a bar having a beer together."
Lewis noted the number of rinks in Utah has increased since his youth days, and that more fine players should be forthcoming. As to whether more prep athletes should consider hockey, rather than football or basketball, he said: "I'd actually say for them to play everything and then pick the one they love most."
But there's only one that can put them at center ice, so to speak.
For more on Utah hosting the hockey high school national championships, go to themortreport.com
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