The Washington Capitals and Alex Ovechkin
partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Mid-Atlantic to grant 13-year-old Ryan Rowlinson his wish to meet the Caps captain. Ryan, who is currently battling neurofibromatosis, along with his 10-year-old brother Jacob and parents Craig and Simone, traveled all the way from Vancouver to attend the Capitals morning skate and game on March 9. Although the Rowlinson family knew that Ryan was going to meet Ovechkin, they had no idea what else the Caps had planned for them that day.
After being dropped off at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in a limousine, the Rowlinsons were greeted by Caps staff members who presented goody bags to both Ryan and Jacob. The goody bags consisted of jerseys, T-shirts, hats, bobbeheads, posters and plenty of other Caps memorabilia provided by both the team and the Washington Capitals Fan Club. The family was then escorted to the practice rink where the Fan Club had hung a huge sign at the top of the bleachers welcoming Ryan to D.C. After being seated on the visiting team’s bench to watch practice, players started to skate over to Ryan, saying hello and signing his jersey. Already excited, Ryan’s face lit up even more when Ovechkin got on the ice and skated over to him, welcoming him and signing his jersey.
Head coach Bruce Boudreau and general manager George McPhee also stopped by the bench to chat with the Rowlinson family. McPhee warned the group to be careful of flying pucks, to which Ryan responded, “I don’t care if I get hit by a puck and lose a tooth, then I will look like Ovechkin.”
After practice, John Erskine
signed his stick and gave it to Ryan as he exited the ice. When Ovechkin was finished skating, he brought Ryan into the locker room where Ryan had his own stall. Ryan had a Caps nameplate and more Caps gear, including Ovechkin jerseys for both him and his brother. The family took photos in the locker room, and got to meet more players. Karl Alzner
, whose hometown is close to the Rowlinsons’, chatted with the family about Vancouver. Then, Matt Bradley took Ryan, Jacob and Craig on a tour of the locker room, showing them the players’ lounge, theater room, training room and gym.
Ryan then went to take photos by the welcome sign and shop at the team store – his mother compared the pro shop to his version of a toy store. The family was then treated to lunch at the Front Page Arlington by owner Jorge Fernandez. After lunch, the Rowlinsons headed back to the hotel to rest up for their big night ahead. This downtime allowed Ryan and Jacob to go through all the items that they had received, and watch their new Ovechkin DVD to prepare for the game that night.
When the Rowlinson family arrived at Verizon Center that evening, they learned that they would be watching the game from Ovi’s Crazy 8s. After getting settled into their seats and receiving their foam 8s, the family was excited see that Ryan’s welcome banner was on display at the arena. Their next surprise of the night was finding out that the entire family would be watching the teams warm up from the penalty box. There, Ryan got to sit at the scorer’s table next to announcer Wes Johnson, who gave him some tips and even let Ryan help introduce the Caps when they came onto the ice. He and his brother were also given official game pucks. When the teams cleared the ice, it was time for Ryan and his family to head back to their seats to cheer on the Caps.
Shortly before the end of the first period, Ryan received his next surprise. He would be riding the Olympia Ice-Resurfacer during the intermission. Ryan and his family headed down to the event level, passing the Georgetown, Wizards, Mystics and Capitals locker rooms. They even got to watch the end of the first period from the ice level. Ryan admitted he “was nervous” as he got onto the Olympia and headed out to the ice. While on the ice, Ryan was formally welcomed and introduced to the crowd by Wes, and he was even put up on the video board. A smiling Ryan waved to the crowd as he helped resurface the ice. On his way back to his seats, Ryan was interviewed by Comcast SportsNet and took photos in front of the Capitals locker room. Although the game was tied 0-0, Ryan had a feeling that Ovi wasn’t going to let him down and he predicted thathis hero would score three goals.
Close to the end of the second period, the Rowlinson’s were surprised again. This time, the family was headed to the owner’s suite to meet Ted Leonsis. Leonsis and team president Dick Patrick talked with the family and took photos with them. When Leonsis found out the Rowlinsons would be in town for a few days, he invited them back to the game on March 11. Ryan was extremely excited that he was going to see Ovechkin and the Capitals in action again. As intermission came to a close, Ryan headed back to his seats to watch the third period. The Caps were up 2-0 and Ovechkin already had a goal and an assist.
As the game was winding down, Ryan received his final surprise of the night – he, his brother and dad had been invited to the locker room after the game. Ryan cheered as the game ended, the Caps had shutout the Oilers and Ovechkin ended the night with three points – two goals and one assist. Ryan screamed in support as Ovechkin was named First Star of the Game.
After the game, Ryan joined the Caps in the locker room, where Ovechkin gave him an autographed stick. He took photos with players and made sure his jersey was signed by the players he had missed at practice. After a very long and exciting day, Ryan and his family headed back to the hotel where they could finally get some rest.
Two days later, Ryan, Jacob, Craig and Simone were back at Verizon Center to see the Caps take on the Hurricanes. Leonsis had provided them with his personal seats, so the family got to enjoy this game on the glass. At the game, Ryan was given a disc full of photos from his wish two days earlier, so he could always remember his time with Ovechkin and the Caps. The team did not disappoint, and Ryan got to watch another Caps win with another Ovechkin goal as Washington defeated Carolina, 2-1.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. Founded in 1980 when a group of caring volunteers helped a young boy fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer, the foundation is now the largest wish-granting charity in the world.
For more information about the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Mid-Atlantic, including how you can help refer a local child from Maryland, Northern Virginia, Delaware or the District of Columbia for a wish as well as sponsor a wish or donate in-kind gifts of goods, services or airline frequent flier miles, please call (301) 962-9474 or visit www.midatlantic.wish.org.
The BC & Yukon chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation was formed in 1983. Since inception, this chapter has made more than 1,400 wishes come true for children with life-threatening medical conditions.To see photos from Ryan's Make A Wish day, click here.To see a video of Ryan's Make A Wish day, click here.