TORONTO -- A pair of Ontario hockey stars attended the Honda Indy Toronto for the first time and were thrilled with what they saw.
Mike Hoffman, the Ottawa Senators’ leading scorer in 2015-16, and Lawson Crouse, the Florida Panthers’ first selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, met with Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Conor Daly, James Hinchcliffe and Graham Rahal before the race. Hoffman and Hinchcliffe -- fellow Canadians -- also exchanged jerseys.
“This is my first time coming to a motor racing event,” said Hoffman, the left wing from Kitchener, Ontario, who had 29 goals and 30 assists for Ottawa this season. “I’m really into cars so I figured I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to meet some of the drivers and see how they do things.”
Rahal explained to the players how he climbed through the developmental driving levels before reaching the Verizon IndyCar Series. Hoffman could relate.
“They’re at the highest stage, they worked their way up,” Hoffman, 26, said. “Start as a kid, same as us, go through the so-called minor leagues – their racing tiers. It’s like us going through junior hockey to starting professionally and working your way up.”
Also a first-time visitor to the Honda Indy Toronto, Crouse appreciated the finer points of Indy car racing.
“The detail that goes into the racing is incredible,” said Crouse, 19, who played in the Ontario Hockey League this season. “As a guy that’s watched races on TV, you don’t really think about how much work they put into it. You kind of take it for granted and then you come here and really appreciate the hard work that they put in.”