After just one year in training, 10-year-old Whitehorse hockey player Linsey Eby is bound for the NHL.
Linsey will join 11 others from across Canada — one from each province and two from the three territories — at an NHL all-star exhibition game in Dallas, Texas, this month.
The Grade 5 student from Jack Hulland Elementary was picked randomly from more than 1,200 entries from across Canada.
Like many unique opportunities, this one came through a strange channel — the fast food giant McDonald’s.
The restaurant chain runs a program dubbed In the Line Up that pays the airfare and accommodations for budding hockey players to stand with their ice-time heroes during the all-star game.
Linsey’s mother, Laura, entered her in the contest after hearing about it on the radio.
“It will give her the opportunity to meet the all-stars,” said Laura, who hopes the trip will further encourage her daughter’s love of the game.
“Maybe by the time Linsey grows up they’ll have an NHL women’s league.”
Between Linsey’s other interests, math, soccer, skipping and curling, she plays right defence for Pearson Dental in the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association’s atom division three times a week.
She’s the only girl on the team, but she doesn’t let that deter her.
The boys get penalties if they play rough, she said.
The three-day Dallas trip is Linsey’s second shot at hockey stardom in just a few months.
The young player was also picked to play with ice legend Hayley Wickenheiser and broadcaster Kelly Hrudey when they came to Whitehorse in November to drop the puck on the 2007 Canada Winter Games countdown.
“We just played a game,” she said with a shrug.
Then she smiles and nods her head when asked if they were any good on the ice.
The family discovered Linsey won through former Toronto Maple Leaf player Mike Garner, who phoned to formally invite Linsey to the game.
Although she didn’t know who he was at the time, she sure does now.
“She was pretty excited, she phoned everybody she knew,” said Laura.
Linsey began on the ice as a figure skater then one of her friends convinced her to don some pads and pick up a stick.
“It’s something different,” she said.
Soon she caught the hockey bug from her father, Kelly, who is a “huge” fan.
He’s been giving Linsey tips since she first hit the ice.
The most important part is to keep the other team from getting the puck in the net, she said.
Kelly, a Flyers fan, will accompany his daughter on the trip to Dallas.
“He’s pretty much more excited than me,” she said with a smile.
And the all-star opportunity is turning other hockey fans in Linsey’s life green with envy.
“All the guy teachers at school are saying: ‘You’re not taking your dad to Dallas, you’re taking me, right?’” she said.
But Linsey always answers them with a firm: “No, I’m taking my dad.”
However, she’s promised more than a few of her friends she’d try to bring back autographs.
“She’s hoping to get a stick signed too,” added Laura.
“Then she’ll bring it back and give it to Whitehorse Minor Hockey in hopes they’ll auction it off.”