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Hockey Fights Cancer

Ovechkin fulfills promise to 13-year-old cancer survivor

Capitals forward said he'd score against Maple Leafs, then gets three

by Mike Zeisberger @zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

TORONTO -- This was for Alex.

The other Alex.

When Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin beat Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Curtis McElhinney at 12:43 of the first period on Saturday, he immediately gestured toward the Air Canada Centre stands in the area where he thought Alex Luey, 13, was sitting.

 

[RELATED: Luey reads Capitals starting lineup before game | Capitals-Maple Leafs game recap]

 

It was Ovechkin's way of saying: "I did it for you, Alex."

Just like he'd promised.

About an hour earlier, Luey, a cancer survivor, was sitting on the Capitals bench for the warmup when Ovechkin skated over to him.

"I'm going to score a goal for you tonight," Ovechkin told the boy.

And then he went out and did it.

By the time the first-period horn sounded, he'd done it again.

And then, with nine seconds left in the third period, Ovechkin scored his third hat trick of the season to seal a 4-2 victory and complete the most storybook of nights for Luey.

Video: WSH@TOR: Ovechkin collects hatty in special fashion

"I could not have asked for anything more," Luey said in the Capitals dressing room, Ovechkin's left arm draped around him. "I will never forget this night. Never."

Ovechkin's two-goal performance in the opening 20 minutes in honor of Luey had a profound impact on Don Cherry.

During his regular Saturday Coach's Corner segment on Hockey Night in Canada, Cherry compared Ovechkin's vow to score for Luey to the famous incident involving Babe Ruth.

In 1926, an 11-year-old Ruth fan from New Jersey named Johnny Sylvester was diagnosed with osteomyelitis in his skull, a condition that is caused by an infection that leads to bone deterioration.

Upon receiving a telegram from the boy, Ruth vowed to hit a home run for Sylvester in Game 4 of the 1926 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Ruth lived up to his promise. And then some.

He hit three.

Ninety-one years later, it was Ovechkin's turn to keep his word.

He lived up to his promise. And then some.

He scored three.

Video: Ovechkin discusses meeting Alex Luey

Luey knows who Babe Ruth was but was unaware of the three home runs he'd hit after promising Sylvester one.

"Kind of like tonight," Luey said.

A special night for a special kid.

Luey, a youth hockey player with the Niagara Falls Flyers, last year was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a cancer that lives inside the bone. Luey had part of his right leg amputated, but with a prosthetic has returned to play the sport he loves.

When Sportsnet held its "Hometown Hockey" telecast in Niagara Falls on Oct. 8, hosts Ron MacLean and Tara Slone surprised Luey with a video message from Ovechkin, his favorite NHL player.

"Hi, Alex. It's your buddy Ovi," Ovechkin said in the video. "I hear you're cancer-free. You're coming to the game in Toronto in November. I can't wait to meet you, so I'll see you there soon."

When Luey saw Ovechkin's message he began to cry.

On Saturday, with the Maple Leafs fittingly celebrating Hockey Fights Cancer, Luey's hockey dream came true.

Having arrived at the arena about two hours prior to the opening face-off, a wide-eyed Luey waited outside the Capitals dressing room, soaking in every precious moment of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. With a Hockey Night in Canada camera focused in on him, Maple Leafs Hall of Fame center Darryl Sittler stopped to say hello.

"So, you're an Ovi fan," Sittler said.

"Oh yeah," Luey replied, grinning from ear-to-ear.

Luey was asked how many points Sittler accrued to set the single-game NHL record.

"Ten," he replied without hesitation.

The kid knows his hockey.

Moments later, the Capitals players filed out of the dressing room for warmup. Ovechkin gave Luey a quick pep talk. Then, once the players were on the ice, Ovechkin skated to the bench and guaranteed Luey he'd score for him.

After the skate, Luey was invited inside the dressing room, where he read the starting lineup to the players. Upon the mention of each name, the player gave a yell.

Video: WSH@TOR: Luey announces Capitals lineup before game

"That's the best pre-game pep talk I've ever heard," coach Barry Trotz said. "I didn't have to do anything to get the guys fired up. It was all Alex."

Not the captain. The other Alex.

Three hours later, Luey was still on cloud nine. He and Ovechkin were interviewed on Hockey Night in Canada, the coveted Hockey Night in Canada towel draped around his neck. There were interviews with the media in the dressing room while sitting alongside Ovechkin, who then autographed his stick, gloves and helmet and gave them to the beaming boy.

"We play a game for a living," Ovechkin said. "What [Luey] has been through is much more difficult than what we do.

"He should be proud."

Tweet from @Capitals: A quick look inside the winning locker room - Alex Luey gets the coveted Player Of The Game award. #CapsFightCancer #CapsLeafs pic.twitter.com/0ZzXSrWfvP

So should Ovechkin, especially after he gave Luey a night that will live forever in his memory.

"I was so excited after he scored the first goal," Luey said. "The second one was great. I was getting nervous at the end when he was trying for the third one, but it was amazing when he scored it.

"I remember being in the hospital in the spring watching the playoffs on TV. It was a good distraction from everything that was going on."

Alex Luey has come a long way since then.

"It was an awesome evening," he said. "It was so exciting. And I didn't cry."

The same can't be said of all those who were emotionally captivated by this story of inspiration. And of the NHL star who made his dream come true.

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