In honor of Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 13, we asked fans weeks ago to send us their best memories involving both of them. One of the submissions we received came from a longtime fan named Josh Almieri, who shared a story of his sister Megan from 19 years ago. Megan was 12 years old and was diagnosed with cancer for a second time, and a meeting with Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne lifted her spirits and led her on the road to recovery.
Today Megan is healthy, married and living in Westminster, and with Josh's help, the Ducks were able to set up a surprise reunion with her, Paul and Teemu prior to the Hall of Fame Night ceremony on Sunday at Honda Center. The meeting was captured in the video below, and the image above is a fun comparison of two photos taken 19 years apart.
Following is the story that Josh submitted:
For all the Dynamic Duo has accomplished on the ice, my family's most memorable moment took place off the ice. It was 1998 and my sister Megan, 12 years old at the time, had just been diagnosed with a second brain tumor. Four years prior, she had a tumor the size of a softball removed from her brain. The doctors felt they had removed the entire tumor and were confident that she would be in the clear. Unfortunately, they were wrong.
We all still remember where we were the moment we received the news that her cancer had returned. And we were devastated to share this news with the sweet 12-year-old girl who had already battled through so much.
Unbeknownst to us at the time, my father's boss secretly wrote a letter to the Mighty Ducks organization, explaining the situation and asking if there was anything they could do to lift this little girl's spirits. Megan had always been infatuated with Paul Kariya and would do whatever she could to get in front of the TV to watch him play.
Shortly thereafter a box arrived, with a copy of the letter and a handwritten note from someone, I presume, in the front office saying "Paul, anything we can do for this girl?" Underneath this note was an authentic, signed Kariya jersey. We were absolutely floored by the response and generosity of the Ducks organization and with Paul.
We took the jersey to Hoag Hospital to present the letter and jersey to Megan, who just a few days prior had undergone a successful surgery to remove the brain tumor. To this day, I will never forget the look on her face when she opened the box, read the note and saw the jersey. Everyone in that hospital room was brought to tears, especially Megan.
With her partially shaved head covered in bandages, she hopped on her knees and asked if she could put on the jersey and take a few pictures. Who were we to turn her down? In the following days, Megan took it upon herself to personally write Paul a thank-you letter and seal it with the pictures of her in the jersey in an envelope.
Weeks go by and Megan made a full recovery and is sent home! You would think that would be the end of our story, but no. It was important to Megan that she try and give Kariya the pictures and the letter that she wrote him. My father took her to one of the Ducks events, in hopes that his little girl might be able to meet Paul and give him the letter.
Unfortunately, she was not able to meet him, but was able to give the letter to his teammate at the time, Travis Green. He promised her he would give that letter to him when he saw him on the team bus. As it turns out, he did just that.
Shortly after the event, we received a phone call from the Ducks organization. The lady on the other end of the phone said Paul had received the letter and was touched by what he saw and read. Paul invited Megan and her whole family to attend the Mighty Ducks vs. Blackhawks game on November 22, 1998, after which we were to all meet Paul in person.
After the game, we were ushered down to a waiting area, where all of a sudden, in walks Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne. As a life-long Ducks fan myself, this was a tremendous honor. But to see my sister's eyes light up when they walked in the room, that is a moment I will treasure forever.
Paul greeted Megan and presented her with his stick that was used in that game. Paul and Teemu sat with Megan for what seemed like an hour, asking her about her life and showing genuine interest in her and her family. They took the time to sign autographs, take photos and answer any questions or listen to any stories we had for them. To this day, Megan will tell you that this was one of the best days of her life.
There is no question about what Paul and Teemu did for the sport and for the franchise on and off the ice. They were, and continue to be, great ambassadors for the sport and exemplary role models to those who grew up watching and for those who may now only be learning of them. For a 12-year-old girl who suffered through so much in her early years, Paul and Teemu played a major role in boosting her spirits and helping her recover.
Megan has since gone on to live a healthy, cancer-free life. She is now married and living in Westminster, Calif. If you were to walk into her home today, you would still find Kariya's signed jersey and stick hanging on her wall. I hope both Paul and Teemu know exactly how much they mean to Megan and the entire family, and just how thankful we are to both of them.