Sean Panganiban is "The Ultimate MVP."
The lifelong Edmonton Oilers fan was declared Upper Deck's winner of the inaugural Heart Trophy via Twitter voting on Tuesday. Panganiban was revered for overcoming a rare virus and fulfilling a personal commitment to watch the Oilers play against Kölner Haie of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga in the 2018 NHL Global Series Challenge in Cologne, Germany.
"Winning this contest and becoming 'The Ultimate MVP' fan of the NHL is incredible and surreal, as I truly love the Oilers," Panganiban said. "Most importantly, I was able to get my story out and talk about the health issues I've been battling, and I was able to bring awareness to it."
For winning, Panganiban also received official Upper Deck trading cards and tickets to a game, and earned recognition for making a positive impact in his local hockey community.
"I was able to show people that are suffering with what I went through that it's possible to get your life back, and winning this contest is proof," Panganiban said. "All in all, the contest was an incredible experience. Hats off to all the other finalists because it was a battle, but I gave it 110 percent and I grinded out the win."
While planning his trip to Germany, Panganiban contracted the virus that affected his ability to walk, balance and control his eyes. For two years, he's had to retrain his brain to learn those functions again, and during the journey he's helped others cope and recover through support groups. Panganiban also made a YouTube video to share with those who may be experiencing similar hardships.
The recovery was difficult, but Panganiban preserved and traveled to Cologne to see the Oilers defeat Kölner Haie 4-3 in overtime in an exhibition game at Lanxess Arena on Oct. 3, 2018.
At the start of 2020, Panganiban was one of hundreds of nominations across North America for Upper Deck's campaign to find the Ultimate MVP, or Most Valuable Person. He emerged as the Oilers MVP and competed against other NHL team MVPs. and after trailing Columbus Blue Jackets MVP Laing Akers at the halfway point of the voting, Panganiban pulled ahead and never looked back.
"In the Finals, it was an amazing 10 days to get votes," Panganiban said. "From receiving shout-outs from celebrities, to being interviewed on TV and radio stations, and just all the love and support from all the Oilers fans."