“When we got into the car that was taking us to the Saddledome in Calgary, we were all glued to our cell phones watching the game. We screamed like crazy when Sam got his pass.
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Sam's first pass is Samuel Poulin. The one who tells the anecdote is the mother, Annick Corbeil Poulin.
Last Tuesday, Poulin donned the Pittsburgh Penguins uniform for the first time in the National Hockey League (NHL). He experienced his baptism in a 4-1 loss against the Flames in Calgary. He participated in Evgeni Malkin's goal early in the second period.
Recalled from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on October 23, Poulin watched a first game from the press box the following day against the Oilers in Edmonton. But on October 25 around 11:30 a.m., he learned that he would be playing against the Flames.
“I found out during our team meeting the morning of the game, Poulin said in an interview with the Journal. During the meeting, I tried to listen as much as possible and not to think too much about what I had just heard. But it was difficult. We had dinner and time for a nap. I didn't close my eyes too much, the emotions were in the carpet and I didn't yet realize what was going to happen in the next few hours. It was pretty crazy."
“After the game it was even crazier when I saw my family. I was so happy to see them. It was just a great day. I felt like hugging them. As soon as I saw my family, I hugged my brother [Nicolas]. He was the first to come to see me. He told me he was proud of me and that he knew I was going to make it to the NHL. I received good words from everyone.”
Race against time
On this Tuesday morning in October, the weather is glorious in Quebec. Annick Corbeil Poulin takes a health walk with friends she hasn't had the chance to see for some time. A call from Pennsylvania had him retracing his steps at breakneck speed.
"You can ask my friends, but I had to walk really fast," says the mother, bursting out laughing. There are a lot of things going through my head. It was the start of a wild ride.”
Around 1:15 p.m. Montreal time, Jason Seidling, the Penguins' director of operations, telephoned Samuel's mother to inform her that he would play his first NHL game at 7 p.m. Calgary time (9 p.m. in Quebec).
The plane takes off at 3:30 p.m. from Dorval.
“I was sweating when I arrived at the airport, says the mother. I had just had time to pack a small suitcase for the plane. My daughter had ballerina shoes, and there was snow in Calgary. We had no winter coats, we left with the bare minimum.
“When we wanted to check in, the flight attendant told us that security had just closed, that it was too late. But I explained the story. She phoned security and they agreed to open the doors for us.”
From Montreal, the Poulin family passes through Ottawa and then lands in Calgary. At 7:30 p.m., the plane landed.
“There were 12 minutes left in second when we took our seats, says Annick Corbeil Poulin with a smile in her voice. We missed his first appearance, his first pass, but we were there for his first game. And we were there to congratulate him.”
The Bill to the Penguins
The Penguins acted with tremendous class to the family of their 2019 first-round draft pick. They paid for everything: four plane tickets, four tickets to the game and the hotel.
“It really is class. Our family has been in the NHL for thirty years with Patrick who played. I had never heard a story like that. I didn't think they were to take care of the children's tickets too, not just the parents."
“When the gentleman from the Penguins phoned [Jason], he asked me if Kathryn and Nicolas were coming. I asked him the price for the tickets and that I was to contact them. He told me the Penguins paid for the whole family. My 14-month-old grandson, my daughter's boy, also made the trip.
“When we arrived at the hotel, there was a bottle of wine with chocolate and a note from the team to congratulate us. It was big, big class.”
Samuel Poulin will never forget his first game with the Penguins
At 21, Samuel Poulin put his two skates on NHL ice for the first time. He was realizing his childhood dream.
Tradition obliges, Poulin took a solo ride during the warm-up period at the Saddledome in Calgary.
“Yes, I was nervous,” he says. My legs were shaking. The only thing I said to myself in my head was: “I must not fall”. It was happening so fast. I felt emotions like draft day. When the Penguins said my name, I found myself in a bit of a fog. I didn't quite realize what I was going through. It was pretty much the same feeling for my first game. It's happening too quickly."
Used in the center of the third line with Brock McGinn and Kasperi Kapanen for just over 12 minutes, Poulin added his name to the scoresheet by participating in the team's only goal, a net scored by Evgeni Malkin on the power play. .
"Yes, it's cool to get my first point with an assist on a goal from Malkin," he replies. When the game was done, it was happening really fast. I didn't even see the puck go into the net. I just heard a heavy noise in the crowd. After the goal, I stayed on the ice for my presence with my regular line. It was only when I came back to the bench that I realized that I had just obtained a first point in the NHL.
After the game, Poulin also received good words from his captain, Sidney Crosby.
"Sid didn't speak to me before the game. He spoke to me more after the match to congratulate me and tell me that I had played a good match.
"I'm going to walk a bit to get away from the noise." These were the first words of Annick Corbeil Poulin during a call with Le Journal.
Thursday evening, she was watching her oldest son, Nicolas, in a game of the Pétroliers du Nord against the Éperviers de Sorel-Tracy at the old Coliseum in Laval in the North American Hockey League. Two days earlier, she and her entire family followed Samuel's debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Flames in Calgary.
At the end of the line, she describes the emotions experienced during this famous evening at the Saddledome.
“I was thinking about all the work, all the evenings after school or the weekend. Yes, there was the arena, but there was also Sam shooting pucks in the garage. There was the little guy who ran with his dogs or [who] threw a ball at them while skating to get there before them.
“Sidney [Crosby] had his famous clothes dryer. For us, it was a fridge with a poked door. We moved it to keep it as a souvenir. Hours and hours practicing his sport. We had a rink outside and he didn't need a friend to play. He left with cones and he asked his father to give him a practice. He was very young, he was 7 or 8 years old. He has always had a great passion for his sport.
“After the game Sam didn’t have many words. But he was so happy to see us, to realize that we had managed to catch our flights on time. He was not alone for this game. I just had words to congratulate him. I asked him if he realized a little that he now had his foot in the door of the NHL. I spoke more than him! I told him to be proud of himself. There was emotion, a bit like in the repechage. You replay the last fifteen years in your head.
The next destination will be Vancouver and Seattle, where the Penguins will play their next two games. Dad [Patrick] and mom [Annick] planned to leave Montreal on Friday for British Columbia. And they will leave a little more in advance...