John Tavares was bothered to hear about a young Islanders fan being harassed at an Islanders-Jets game in Winnipeg last season.
He knew the kind of impact a traumatic experience could have on a young fan, so Tavares sent him an autographed number 91 jersey to be worn proudly at future games.
But the captain didn’t just mail it in; he arranged to meet 12-year-old Jake Lotocki on Wednesday when the Islanders returned to Winnipeg.
“Sometimes something like that can be really disappointing and can turn you off of such a great game,” Tavares said. “I wanted to make sure he knew it didn’t go unnoticed, all his support, his love of the game, the Islanders and being a fan of mine.”
Tavares met with Jake and his mother, Sue, for a quick chat, pictures and autographs. The Islanders captain also brought some Islanders merchandise and tickets to the game. Jake was a little shy in front of the cameras, but opened up behind closed doors.
“He’s shy a lot like me at that age,” Tavares said. “I just wanted to get to know him, tell him how much I appreciated his support, wearing the Islanders jersey in such a passionate fan base like Winnipeg.”
Sue Lotocki said the interaction with Tavares confirmed everything she thought she knew about the Islanders captain.
“I think that’s one of the reason’s Jake’s been such a fan of John’s for so long because of the way he presents himself. He seems very kind,” Lotocki said. “It only reinforces our opinion of him about not only being an excellent hockey player, but also a really good person.”
She said that Jake became an Islanders fan as a two-year-old and has always had a favorite piece of Islanders memorabilia. It started with a Teddy Bear, then mini sticks and his dad’s old Islanders jersey.
Now fitted with a personalized, autographed Tavares jersey, Jake may be set for life.