COLUMBUS, Ohio --
When asked to describe the impact that Ryan Salmons has had on Columbus and the surrounding communities, former high school buddy and hockey teammate Tony Elliot didn't hesitate.
"Relentless -- that's the key word," Elliot told NHL.com. "Anything you throw at the kid, he's going to make it through and I can guarantee that."
By now, most of you have heard about Salmons and his incredible fight against a terminal cancer that has invaded the muscle tissue in his body. He's a huge Blue Jackets fan and has been an inspiring sight for players, coaches and staff members of the organization since being diagnosed with the disease in April 2008. He is the first player in the history of the Blue Jackets Foundation to actually be signed to a one-day contract by the NHL franchise -- which occurred March 25 at his Grove City home.
On Thursday evening, Elliot will make that traditional skate around Nationwide Arena with the Blue Jackets flag before placing it in its holder at center ice. It's something Ryan would have done if he could -- but instead, he'll have his Hilliard Davidson High School buddy take the lap in his honor.
Salmons will be situated in Section 103 in the ADA handicap seats, which is where Elliot will appear when his name is called. There's no question the fans in Nationwide Arena will erupt when the announcement is made that Salmons' high school teammate will be carrying the flag.
"(Ryan) gave me a call on Tuesday night and said to me, "Hey, you're going to the game on Thursday; we have a ticket for you and you're going to be carrying the flag for Jackets in my honor,' " an emotional Elliot confessed. Elliot didn't have a ticket to the game prior to Salmons' call and is also a huge Blue Jackets fan.
"Ryan and I have been friends since the sixth grade and we were young kids just messing around and having a good time and (hesitation) … we got close in high school and had a special bond," Elliot said. "I started playing my sophomore year at Hilliard at Ryan and I were captains of the team. And that's how it started."
Elliot, a pharmaceutical business major at Ohio State, never doubted that his best friend would be fighting this hard and offering motivation after being diagnosed with the cancer alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma.
"I mean, he's got a smile on his face, telling people he's doing good even if he's in immense pain," Elliot said. "On Wednesday, he told me he was in a lot of pain but when my mom called him, he said he's doing great and said it laughing. I can't tell you how special a moment this will be. This is a memory I'll have for the rest of my life. I think it's really cool of him to ask me to do it, so I'll do it in honor of him."
Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org.