ANAHEIM – Many have done so but Giovanni Fiore hadn’t and it might have felt as if he possessed the winning lottery ticket.
It was Saturday afternoon when Fiore learned that he would play with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in the Ducks’ Sunday night exhibition against the Vegas Golden Knights, taking passes from them and trying to do what he can to extend a lengthy stay in the team’s training camp.
Ryan Getzlaf. Corey Perry. Nearly 600 goals and more than 1,500 points scored as a tandem. Four Olympics gold medals between them and more gold won in other international tournaments. One Stanley Cup they hoisted together. And Fiore, a 21-year-old roster hopeful, was their left wing on this night.
“I’ve been following them pretty much since I was a little kid,” Fiore said. “Team Canada. Stanley Cup champions. I had to put that aside tonight. I couldn’t let that get in my head, their image and their status.
“For sure, I have respect for them. I had to play my own game and I had to fit in well.”
The first chance to play with Getzlaf and Perry came in practice Saturday morning but Fiore took that with a grain of salt. Soon, it became real but the moments leading up to having the chance many players – especially young ones – would dream of having were “nothing crazy” for him.
“Nothing out of the ordinary, to be honest,” Fiore continued. “It pushed me more. It gave me a lot more motivation. I’m obviously motivated every day but to be alongside those two guys, it’s a great boost of energy. I think I made the best of my situation.”
The chances are that Fiore is merely keeping a spot warm for a more proven winger, most likely Patrick Eaves once he is able to shake off a lower-body injury that’s kept him from making his preseason debut. But Fiore has shown why he earned a free-agent contract from the Ducks in April.
In the Ducks’ 4-2 loss to Vegas, Fiore had a number of scoring chances that might have made for a big night if some better luck went his way. And then with 22.9 seconds left, it did.
Collecting the puck by the goal line deep in the offensive zone, Fiore saw new Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury come off his post just enough to snap a quick shot that the three-time Cup winner couldn’t keep out.
Perhaps it was fitting. The two are graduates of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. A decade apart they may be, but for Fiore, it was a thrilling moment.
“I played with him this…