'Fist-bump kid' still embraced as honorary member of Bruins
Cancer survivor Fitzgerald remains 'special friend' to Boston players seven years after viral videoby Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer
It has been seven years since Liam Fitzgerald captured the hearts of Boston Bruins players and fans, a pipsqueak in a Bruins jersey fist-bumping the team on its way off the ice after warmups on Nov. 4, 2014, a moment later watched by millions of people on YouTube.
Liam, who was born with Down syndrome and who was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 3, is now 15, still as big a Bruins fan, still an honorary member of the team. He was in attendance at the 2021 NHL Thanksgiving Showdown against the New York Rangers on Friday, when ABC aired an update on his story during the game, as part of Hockey Fights Cancer month.
"I'm doing good," Liam said, acknowledging how special it has been for him to be embraced by the Bruins. "This whole thing started with Adam McQuaid. I wanted to meet Adam McQuaid. I came in, watched the Bruins, I went down to the locker room and met him and I met Milan [Lucic], Dennis Seidenberg, [Gregory] Campbell, everybody."
Liam, who now plays basketball and works for his high school's hockey, basketball and baseball teams, was found by Bruins cameras on that day seven years ago blowing kisses and sending hugs to the camera, his joy palpable. He was brought down to Boston's bench, where he fist-bumped each member of the team, most memorably shaking out his hand after a fist bump from Campbell.
Liam has long held a special bond for the members of those Bruins teams, especially McQuaid, Campbell, and Torey Krug, who signed as an unrestricted free agent with the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 9, 2020. The defenseman wrote a letter to Liam on the Blues web site during Hockey Fights Cancer month last season; Liam spent four years in aggressive chemotherapy after his leukemia diagnosis, with his last dose in May 2013.
Krug, who sent Liam a Blues jersey, recalled in his letter meeting the captivating fan for the first time.
"After that day, I knew you would be one of the most special friends I would ever make in Boston," Krug wrote. "I remember how Adam told me that you looked up to us, but before the night was over, Adam and I looked up to you."
So does Liam's family.
As his father, Bill Fitzgerald, told ABC, "Seeing him being poked, prodded, multiple sticks [in the] same arm, and to see him take deep breaths and focus, to me was the definition of toughness."
Liam is not a stranger at TD Garden; the last game he attended there was Boston's 3-2 shootout win against the Florida Panthers on Oct. 30, and he watches many from his Bruins-festooned home in Northborough, Massachusetts, where his family has appreciated the love shown for him. Liam served as the fan banner captain for Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, before the Bruins lost 4-1 to the Blues.
"It's definitely been an honor," said Nick Cavanna, Liam's half-brother. "They've taken him in, under their wings, and they've been nothing but great to him, bringing him to games and charity events and treating him as one of their own. Almost like a player. I know he's enjoyed it. We've all enjoyed it as a family.
"We always say hockey players are the best, on and off the ice. On the ice, they might be the toughest guys, but off the ice, some of the nicest guys you could ever meet. Just nothing but love from Liam to them and from them to Liam, which has been really nice to watch."