A hug from Connor McDavid was just the boost 4-year-old Tristan Castor needed before a major procedure that will hopefully leave him cancer-free.
The Edmonton Oilers captain met with Tristan, who is getting set for a bone marrow transplant later this month, after their game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Place.
Tristan was diagnosed with pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia at 11 months of age. He's been in remission three times, but the disease has relapsed each time, and most recently he underwent a trial procedure at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto from Nov. 18-Jan. 19.
"It's always special meeting someone like that, especially a kid and a family going through a hard time," McDavid told NHL.com. "He's not doing so well, and he's going in for another procedure. Anything you can do to help and bring a little joy and help up his spirits and if it makes him want to fight a little harder in any way, it's worth it."
He will undergo the transplant, with bone marrow donated from his 15-year-old brother Ethan, at Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary on Feb 18. From there he'll undergo an intensive three-to-six-month recovery that could leave him cancer-free.
"They said that kids at Tristan's age have a 70 percent chance of beating it," Tristan's stepfather Rob told NHL.com. "It's been a long road, and we're super excited that he has the chance to get better. We're happy, but we're really nervous too."
Rob, and Tristan's mom Pam Johnson, have had financial troubles while getting Tristan treatment, but Pam's friend gave them the tickets Tuesday. An arena usher upgraded their seats after Rob them told Tristan's story, then an Oilers employee gave them a second upgrade and some Oilers gear.
The employee then invited them down to the Oilers locker room after the game, where McDavid came out to Tristan's delight.
"His mouth dropped, and his eyes got big and it took him three or four seconds before he realized what was happening," Rob said. "Then he just said 'Connor McDavid!' and he got a big hug from Connor, and he said 'I hear there's a kid named Tristan I'm supposed to meet.'"
McDavid also autographed Tristan's jersey and wrote "You are so strong" on it.
Tristan, who is from Edmonton and was attending his second Oilers game (his first since he was a baby) nearly convinced Rob to take him home after the first period because he missed his mom. Fortunately Rob talked Tristan into staying.
"[The Oilers] made it a night that Tristan and I are never going to forget," Rob said.
Meeting with Tristan helped lift McDavid's spirits too.
"It just gives you a little perspective," McDavid said. "Things seem bad, but it definitely could be worse. We're very lucky to be in the position we are, and it's important that we spread joy."
NHL.com correspondent Derek Van Diest contributed to this story.