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'It’s surreal': London’s Nick Suzuki on living his hockey dream

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Nick Suzuki is the 31st and youngest captain in the history of the Montreal Canadiens franchise.

He still has a hard time wrapping his head around it.

“When I was told I was going to be named captain, it was one of the best days I’ve had,’ said Suzuki via a Zoom call ahead of a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“It still doesn't feel real to me when I see the ‘C’ on that jersey in my stall. It's very cool and a huge honour and to have to live up to those expectations,” he said.

The London, Ont. native follows some of hockey’s all-time greats.

Names like Toe Blake, Jean Beliveau, Maurice Richard, Henri Richard, Yvan Cournoyer, Serge Savard, Bob Gainey, and more recently Guy Carboneau, Kirk Muller and Saku Koivu.

Suzuki has had interactions with many of them during his time in Montreal.

Montreal Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki speaks to reporters during an end of season media availability in Brossard, Que., Friday, April 14, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

“Kirk Muller was my coach, and Yvan Cournoyer is around a lot,” said Suzuki. “Those two guys are very cool and I love talking to them every time I can.”

Back home in London, Suzuki’s parents Rob and Amanda also feel it’s surreal having their son as the leader of the most history franchise in hockey.

“It's completely unexpected, I couldn't have dreamed a more unlikely scenario,” said Rob.

Nick got his first start in the game playing Tyke hockey out of the Lambeth Arena on the west end of London.

His first team was coincidentally named the Canadiens.

A childhood photo of NHL star Nick Suzuki, who got his start playing for the Tyke Canadiens in Lambeth Minor Hockey and now is the captain of the Montreal Canadiens. (Source: Amanda Suzuki)

“We played against the Bruins, the Leafs, Blackhawks, all the original six teams,” said Suzuki. “Now I'm actually on the team, so it's kind of cool that journey I had.”

Nick’s mother said when he and his brother Ryan (also a pro hockey player) were little, their dad would pull them out of daycare to go to skating, or play shinny hockey.

“He hated skating lessons, so we just gave up and just let them do it naturally on their own,” said Amanda.

When asked if he was as good at a young age as he is now, “No, he was terrible. He could barely stand up,” said Rob. “He loved playing hockey but he hated doing the skating lessons.”

As he got older, scouts nitpicked at his skating ability, but he worked hard and focused on getting a stronger skating stride.

Eventually, he became the best in his class with the London Jr. Knights program, and then in the OHL with the Owen Sound Attack and the Guelph Storm.

He won an OHL Championship with the latter.

He would eventually make the National Hockey League, where he would face off against two of his childhood idols, Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron.

“I got to play against both of them, and also speak with them at All-Star Games and other NHL stuff,” said Suzuki. “It's cool to idolize those guys and play against them.”

Playing in Montreal, 732 km away from the Suzuki’s home in west London, his parents don’t get to see him play that often, but they travel as much as they can.

Amanda and Rob Suzuki, parents of NHL star Nick Suzuki, call it ‘surreal’ that their son is the captain of hockey’s most successful franchise. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

“We just had a dads’ trip to Boston last weekend and the moms went to Nashville last year,” said Rob. “If there is anything close like in Buffalo or Detroit, we try to get there as well.”

During the pandemic, the Habs reached the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Suzuki believes it won’t be his last crack at hockey’s Holy Grail.

“I think we have a really good group for the future, and I'm really hoping to get back there,” he said.

His parents believe that would be the pinnacle of his career, and feel that’s the goal.

“At 24, he's got a lot of time left,” said Amanda.

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