Joel Ward credits a friend for helping him score two goals on opening night.
Before the NHL season started the Washington Capitals winger dedicated the season to his former UPEI Panther teammate Drew Power, who died in a house fire in December.
Ward told The Guardian Wednesday he asked his friend for some assistance during Saturday’s emotional opening night in Tampa Bay, Florida.
“Sure enough I got one goal and I was like, ‘Holy, I think he’s really here,’” Ward said.
“I scored another one. Then I asked him to see if he’d help me with a third, but I think he pretty much said I was getting too greedy.”
Ward said Power had a great sense of humour and suspected his friend had a few laughs watching the game. Ward scored twice as the Capitals lost 6-3.
Ward said he was stunned and crushed when he received a call from former coach Doug Currie, notifying him of Power’s sudden death.
“I almost dropped the phone. I couldn’t believe it.”
Ward and Power became friends when Ward was a Panther and Power was an Abbie. The players would go to each others’ games and hang out together away from the rink.
Ward said he thinks the fact both athletes’ fathers died at a young age also connected them.
“I think that was our initial little bond, to be honest, how we connected,” Ward said. “We just became friends pretty quickly.”
They ended up being teammates with the Panthers in 2002-3, lived together and stayed in contact over the years.
“I definitely will miss the big guy, for sure,” he said, “but I know he is watching, I got a glimpse of it.”
Ward said he didn’t expect the amount of positive response he has received since deciding to dedicate the season to his friend on Twitter. But in retrospect, he said, it is not surprising because of the amount of people the 31-year-old Power touched during his life.
“He just knew everybody and everybody knew Drew,” Ward said. “Drew was just full of life and about good times.”
Power’s stepfather Duane McGregor was in attendance for Saturday's game. Ward spoke to him after the contest and said it was an emotional evening for both men.
The Capitals winger is now waiting for hockey gloves with his friends’ initials stitched on them to use this season.
“I figured that’s a way I can keep him close.”