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Changing lives on and off the ice

changing lives

Pro athletes take part in changing lives just as the sport they play has done so for them. Professional sports is one of the great platforms used to impact the lives of those in need. The Make-a-Wish Foundation has been doing this for the last 37 years. However, pro teams in each of the major sports have done their best as well to get involved in these opportunities.

Proven psychological facts state that how fans feel about their teams and athletes have a large effect on how they perform. Some players say they are immune to how fans feel, but sports psychologist Daniel L. Wann explains why that is not the case. He tells us that “it’s like an adolescent who says they don’t care about what their parents think” (AASP). The relationship between the fans and players is very important. A team’s effort within the community they play for is vital to an organization’s success.

Fans must feel at ease with their emotional investment in their team. Meeting players, conversing with front office members and knowing the club you root for as best you can does wonders. Many that are unable to do that, who are in need and have an undying love for their team have that at the top of their bucket list. Fortunately, NHL teams make dreams like this come true every day.

Ari and Levi with Blues

changing lives
Photo: St. Louis Blues

Two lives have been rejuvenated in the last eight months by the St. Louis Blues and Vladimir Tarasenko. Levi Ervin and Arianna Dougan were granted wishes in the midst of heartache and struggle, but never imagined the extent of those wishes that they received. The experience they had helped them forget about their troubles for at least that while and is something they will never forget.

Arianna was given the best birthday present she could ask for this past March while battling cancer. Her favorite player (Tarasenko) gave her the news prior to his team’s game against Buffalo. She would be traveling with the team for a two-game road trip in Arizona and Colorado. Her can’t miss smile showed the entire club how special it was and “how tough she really is” Blues defensemen Robert Bortuzzo told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Ari attended games beyond the road trip and into the playoffs where she became a rallying point for the fans each time they showed her on the jumbotron.

Levi signed a one-day contract with his team after being involved in a catastrophic car accident. His grandparents suffered third degree burns and his two-year old sister sadly passed away. The newest member of the Blues traveled with the team to Carolina for their game against the Hurricanes. He took the ice with his hockey hero Tarasenko for the morning skate, then fist pumped the boys as they left the ice after a 2-1 win.

The Blues clinched a playoff berth last spring with the three points they received during the road trip with Ari. They deposited a big two points nearing the end of the first month of this season on the road with Levi.

Kohen and Gage with the Oilers

Edmonton found a rare bright spot in their season in February of 2016. Kohen Flett was signed to a one-day contract with the Oilers. The eight-year old (at the time) was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was only 15 months old. Like the previous cases, Kohen possessed a “larger than life smile” (Fox Sports) throughout this incredible experience.

The youngster spent his day with the team practicing with the Oilers for their morning skate. Kohen was able to help superstar Connor McDavid with his equipment. He then gave the team a speech before they hit the ice for practice. Flett got the entire player experience that ended with a team photo and interviews with the Edmonton media. Kohen said, “it was the best day of my life,” (Fox Sports).

changing lives
Photo: Instagram

Make-a-Wish Northern Alberta teamed up with the Oilers again this past September. Gage Foster got his opportunity to work out with his favorite goalie (Cam Talbot). The young fan and his family took the ice with the Oiler net minder prior to the start of training camp. Gage is a member of Make-a-Wish Southwestern Ontario, but his wish was still granted with the help of the foundation.

Edmonton has some of the most loyal fans in the NHL. It is hockey 365 days a year. In recent years of their rebuild they still managed to average 16,000 fans a night at home games. Their work within the community and connection to their fans is one of the big reasons why.

Across the league

Fans and players work as one to reach a common goal. The unifying of a community is imperative to reaching this goal, but it starts with the players. Each official team website has a community tab. A team’s community is the financial and emotional fuel to their club. A good relationship and cohesion between these two pieces makes giving this fuel an easy decision. However, many still question and criticize people who invest much of their time, money and emotions in their teams.

When you love something, it’s hard to describe. It’s not something you do, it’s something you feel. Furthermore, it’s reassuring when our impactful efforts are backed by psychological science. I love my team, and there have been many times I have acted irrationally in support of my team. The way all of our teams make us feel every emotion possible justifies these actions for us.

No one forces a player to make a young child feel good and smile. It is the renowned athlete that recognizes his ability to do so who then takes action. The moments a child has with his favorite team and player(s) last forever.

 

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