17-year-old Robby Bing has loved hockey since his dad took him to his first game when he was three years old.
This February, hockey decided it was time to show Robby that it loves him right back.
“I like the whole sport – it’s awesome,” Bing told BlueJackets.com. “I like the fighting, the dekeing, the scoring, the playmaking, everything.”
Bing, who has intractable epilepsy and Rasmussen encephalitis, had told Make-A-Wish Ohio/Kentucky/Indiana that the Blue Jackets were the No. 1 thing in his life and he wanted nothing more than to see his favorite team in a different city with his family.
And the Blue Jackets wanted to make that happen – with a few extra surprises thrown in.
Bing and his family showed up to Nationwide Arena on Feb. 27 to watch the Blue Jackets take on the Florida Panthers. Bing knew he was going to drop the puck at center ice to start the game, but what he didn’t know was he’d first watch a custom video announcement from team captain Nick Foligno.
In front of the home crowd, Foligno surprised Robby with the news that he would be flying with the team on Blue Jackets Air to New York City for the Rangers game.
“We’re really proud to facilitate this and have him come along,” Foligno said. “He’s lifted our spirits as much as we’ve tried to lift his.”
When Bing and his father showed up to the airport to fly to Manhattan, they found their seats would be right next to head coach John Tortorella.
“He told me he didn’t want to sit with me,” Tortorella laughed. “He said he was afraid of me, I don’t know why. But I hope I won him over.”
Bing talked to Tortorella about hockey, and he even offered Tortorella advice on how to continue to improve the team. And while Tortorella is now “cool” in Bing’s eyes, Tortorella was most thankful for what the young man was teaching his team.
“It just puts everything in perspective. I think it’s good for our players to understand real life stuff that goes on,” Tortorella said. “This is really cool for (Bing) because he’s never going to forget it, and I hope that’s what our players feel too because we want to keep doing stuff like this.”
Upon arriving in New York, Bing and his family took on a jam-packed schedule, visiting city landmarks including Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, and the 09-11 museum.
But the highlight was game day, when Bing got to spend time watching both the Jackets and the Rangers practice before taking photos on center ice at Madison Square Garden.
In the evening, Bing donned his custom Blue Jackets jersey to watch his favorite team take on the Rangers in a game that went down to the wire. While the game ended in a 2-1 loss for the boys in union blue, there was plenty of excitement. Bing got to see his favorite player, Jared Boll, take on New York’s Dylan McIlrath.
How big is Bing’s Boll fandom? His dad told Boll that the family turns the volume to ‘40’ when they watch games on TV.
“I was surprised I was his favorite,” Boll said. “He’s been a Blue Jackets fan for such a long time so to hear something like that, to see how excited he gets about watching games, it’s pretty special. I’m glad I’m in a position to make a kid that’s battling a lot excited about something.”
The surprises didn’t stop when the game was over. Player after player came out of the Blue Jackets locker room and sought Bing out to thank him for coming, and also to sign any additional autographs he desired.
“It was everything I hoped it would be,” Bing said.