RALEIGH — He was just a kid back then, a 13-year-old rooting for his father's team to win the Stanley Cup, peering between the shoulders of the fans standing in front of him. Five years later, now that Keegan Lowe is officially allied with the enemy, he's no less impressed by the Game 7 atmosphere at the RBC Center.
The son of legendary Edmonton Oilers defenseman Kevin Lowe, the Oilers' general manager in 2006 and their president now, Keegan Lowe's disappointment from way that night ended never faded, but neither did his amazement at the way the game of hockey was being embraced in this part of the country.
"I can't lie, back in 2006 I noticed when I was down there how big hockey was in Raleigh," Keegan Lowe said. "I didn't know that before I went down there. It opened my eyes a bit. ... Just walking through the parking lots, all the fans were extremely nice to us even though we had our Oilers gear on. Once we got in the building, everyone stood up the whole game. That was the one thing I remember the most. I'd never seen that before."
The younger Lowe saw the best North Carolina hockey has to offer, even if he was in tears when it was over. Now, he's a part of it. The Hurricanes took him in the third round of the NHL draft on Saturday, 73rd overall, one pick before the Oilers were up.
The Hurricanes didn't steal this one from the Oilers, though. Kevin said the Oilers would have taken him earlier, but Keegan told him he'd just as soon play elsewhere, away from Edmonton, where he plays junior hockey. Keegan's mother was an Olympic downhill skier for Canada, but he's a dual citizen who has declared for the United States.
"We talked about it, if I would like going there, if I didn't want to it would be up to me," Keegan Lowe said. "He was just trying to treat me like any other player."
Because of his famous father, Lowe became one of the bigger stories of the second day of the draft. Not many third-round picks are invited to the NHL Network set for an interview, even those who were once the little kid wearing the Oilers jersey at the draft podium.
Keegan was the Oilers' draft-floor runner in 2006, and a picture of him with Wayne Gretzky and Alex Ovechkin is one of his treasured possessions.
A 6-foot-1, 173-pound defenseman, NHL Central Scouting ranked Lowe 88th among North American skaters. The Hurricanes think he's better than that.
"The fact of the matter is he's now more like 6-foot-2, 195," Hurricanes director of amateur scouting Tony MacDonald said. "He skates very well, he's got size, he's got skill, he moves the puck, he plays a physical, involved game. Of course we know the bloodlines are there."
The Hurricanes weren't done with the bloodlines. With their final pick, they took Brody Sutter, the son of Duane and the third second-generation Sutter to join the organization.
Just as popular in Alberta as the Sutter brothers, the elder Lowe chose to sit with Keegan and his mother in the stands instead of at the Oilers' draft table. He won six Stanley Cups as a player, and was denied his first as an executive in 2006, but he said hearing the Hurricanes call his son's name ranked up there with any of them.
"I've had a lot of good things happen in my hockey career, but this is one of the best," Kevin Lowe said.
Keegan Lowe was there for the best moment in Hurricanes history. He may not have seen it that way at the time, but he's part of a different family now.