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The Flames signed nine-year-old Fionn Daly to a one-day contract on Monday

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GeorgejohnsonCH /

Main Street U.S.A.? No biggee. Sleeping Beauty's Castle? Can take it or leave it.

Those world-famous Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan's Flight or Haunted Mansion rides?

Be his guest. They're all yours.

"My brothers,'' announced nine-year-old Fionn Daly, "said: 'Go to Disneyland!' I said: 'No way.'"

Walt's 86 acres of Anaheim park land, you see, isn't the only place where dreams do come true.

Through Make-A-Wish Southern Alberta, the Kilkenny, Ireland-born Fionn and his family - parents Tina and Kelvin, brothers Rhys and Hugo - spent the afternoon at the Fionn's idea of a Magic Kingdom:

The Scotiabank Saddledome.

"This,'' he announced at one point to no one in particular, "is awesome."

To start off the day, Calgary Flames' general manager Brad Treliving had Fionn put pen to paper on a one-day contract in the Ed Whalen Media Lounge - the site of a few other high-profile signings - and then the new recruit fielded questions.

In announcing the signing, Treliving mentioned how the organization's always on the lookout players who battle.

Fionn has a serious heart condition and enlarged organs. Battling is second nature for him.

"To hear him walk into the media conference,'' laughed his dad, Kelvin, "and say 'Let's do this'? I knew he was pumped up.

"Ready to go.

"He was committed. He was all-in at that point."

Following the and Q&A, Fionn then attended team meetings - during which highlights of Ireland's famous rugby win over the Kiwis in Chicago at Soldier Field in November were played for motivational purposes.

As he and brothers then waited for fist-bumps as the players trooped out on the ice for an afternoon skate.

After the practice proper, Fionn and his brothers hit the ice to skate with the Flames.

"This,'' he bubbled, "is SO cool.''

A film crew has been following Fionn and family around for a while. When they're all guests of the organization for a Feb. 28th date against the L.A. Kings, a video featuring Fionn's journey will be shown on the 'Dome JumboTron.

"All he wanted to do for his Make-A-Wish day,'' says Kelvin, "was to hang out with the Flames. Initially, you know, my wife and I thought that maybe the Disneyland option would've been a good idea.

"But Fionn wouldn't hear of that.

"He just loves hockey so much.

"Ireland and Canada are similar in that they're both sport-mad. I think that's where Fionn gets it.

"When we first moved here, one of the first things he saw on TV was hockey, and he was mesmerized. From the get-go.

"It's amazing what hockey's brought to our lives. We could be at a dinner party with friends, the kids there, too, and we'll be talking hockey, and questions naturally arise.

"The adults at the table might not know the answer. So they'll call Fionn and say 'Hey, Fionn, which goalie is 31?' He tells them and then goes back down and plays with his buddies.

"That's his thing. The first thing he does in the morning is go on the Flames' website. After he's read all about them then he goes on to the next NHL team. Then the next."

Understand, Fionn Daly does not miss Flames games. Or hockey in general, for that matter. On a Saturday, he's glued to the television set until the final buzzer of the final televised game.

Currently, he plays defence for the Calgary Venom of the Calgary Sledge Hockey Association. 

One day, he says, he wouldn't mind being the Flames' equipment manager.

"Today, honestly, just before the press conference I had a tear in my eye,'' said his mom. "I had to really stop and take a breath.

"It was special to see.

"Really special.

"We come to a lot of games. We're very lucky. He gets tickets through Kids Up Front. We live in a great community and our neighbours give him tickets.

"It means so much to him."

If the signee-for-a-day was enjoying himself, so were the guys on somewhat longer contracts.

"It's nice for us to get a little bit of an eye-opener in life sometimes,'' said skipper Mark Giordano, Fionn's favourite Flame. "As you get older, you appreciate your kids more and more.

"It was great to have him out. I really look forward to these days. The whole contract for a day thing is pretty cool.

"He's having a blast. He's not shy, for sure."

"I think it puts everything in perspective,'' said Calgary-born goaltender Chad Johnson. "It helps you re- how lucky to be where you are.

"When you see a young guy like him, you pinch yourself. You realize you actually are what so many kids want to be, a Flames' hockey player; you're reminded that you're living someone else's dream."

A young hockey fan's dream, at least for a day, with his family there to share the experience.

"I only realize how good it could be,'' acknowledged Kelvin, "now that I'm here.

"Until you see his smile … just priceless.

"You're always nervous because with Fionn's anxiety you just don't know which way something's going to go.

"After a half-hour, 40 minutes, though, you could see how his body-language had changed. He was a lot more relaxed.

"To see him sitting there, beside Brad Treliving, to then realize we're actually here, that this is really happening …

"We're part of Make-A-Wish for a reason, so to be able to see that wish actually come true, you honestly can't put it into words.

"Sometimes, I guess, you don't really need words.'

No, you don't.

Sometimes something as simple as a smile will do.

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