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Bobrovsky meets young Blue Jackets fan from his hometown

Ben was born in Bobrovsky's Siberian hometown of Novokuznetsk, Russia

by Brian Hedger BlueJacketsInsider /

The words were spoken a little quietly, and Ben Paler's heart was beating pretty fast when they left his mouth.

Standing in the hallway outside the Blue Jackets' locker room Saturday, the 12-year old from Westerville was given a unique opportunity, along with his family. They were introduced to goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, or "Goalie Bob" as they refer to him.

The second Bobrovsky emerged, following practice at Nationwide Arena, Ben's eyes grew.

He describes the moment as "Crazy," when Bobrovsky chatted with him and signed an autograph for a kid he'd never met before - a boy who was born in Bobrovsky's Siberian hometown of Novokuznetsk, Russia.

"It's crazy, because most people don't get to meet someone like that, and we have a lot in common," said Ben, who was adopted by Mike and Julie Paler in November 2007 from a Russian orphanage. "We were born in the same country, same continent and same town. It's exciting and [nerve-wracking] at the same time."

Ben was just two when the adoption was approved, so he doesn't have memories of where his life began. His parents would like him to know about it, so they do their best to help him learn about it.

They didn't know about Bobrovsky's shared connection with their son until Ben said he wanted to play hockey. As he started learning the sport in a Junior Jackets program at one of the local Chiller ice rinks, Ben and his parents began researching the backgrounds of Blue Jackets players. 

When they got to Bobrovsky, they were excited to see his listed hometown.

Ben's full name on his official adoption papers is, "Benjamin Michael Igor Paler."

There's a reason they kept that "Igor," as part of it. It's Ben's given Russian first name, which the Palers kept as a way for their son to stay connected to his origins. Meeting Bobrovsky was another way, and Julie reached out to the Blue Jackets to see if a meeting could be arranged.

That's how Bob met Ben.

"It was amazing," Julie said. "Just for Ben to have the opportunity to ask folks about his hometown, and the fact that 'Goalie Bob,' still has family there and still lives there, that's really cool. We're just trying to keep him connected in some way."

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