All 9-year-old Caiden Chambers wanted was a puck from his first NHL game at Bell Centre. He ended up on the Carolina Hurricanes team bus taking pictures with his new favorite player.
Along with his father Curtis and grandfather Dave Lawrence, Chambers made a 12-hours, 770-mile drive from Nova Scotia to Montreal Thursday to see the Canadiens play the Hurricanes.
The long trip turned out to be well worth it.
Curtis has been a Canadiens fan his whole life, and Caiden was following in his dad's footsteps until he began playing for the Atom "C" Hurricanes in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia in the fall. Caiden still roots for Montreal, but proudly wears his Hurricanes hoodie, plays as Carolina in video games and chose them when his dad asked which team he'd like to go see play Montreal.
"My wife and I surprised him the day that we drove up with a brand new Montreal Canadiens jersey, and wrapped up in the jersey were three tickets for the game," Curtis Chambers, Caiden's dad, told NHL.com. "Originally he was so excited about the jersey, he failed to notice the three tickets that fell to the floor."
Before the game, Caiden went into the lower bowl and quickly wrote "It's my first NHL game, can I please have a puck?" on a piece of paper.
When Hurricanes forward Lee Stempniak saw Caiden's sign, he flipped a puck over the glass.
"I have been a Habs fan my whole life, and up until [Stempniak] threw Caiden a puck, he and I would've told you the same," Curtis said. "From that moment onward, the smile on his face was too large to pull the red, white and blue back on. From that moment on he was 100 percent a Carolina fan."
Caiden initially planned to wear his Hurricanes hoodie under his Canadiens jersey after he received the puck. But when Curtis offered Caiden his Canadiens jersey back after warmup, he declined it, deciding instead to keep displaying the Hurricanes logo. Lawrence wore the jersey instead, which allowed Caiden to cheer loudly for the Hurricanes after he adopted Stempniak as his favorite player and monitored his every move, which included two goals.
After the game, they waited outside the arena hoping they could see Caiden's new favorite team. They hung out outside Bell Centre for about 30 minutes before Curtis tweeted at the team account asking if someone would come out and sign his puck.
A short time later, Hurricanes coach Bill Peters came out from inside the arena where the bus was docked and invited Caiden and his family onboard. Peters introduced them to the players, and instructed the team to accommodate Caiden in any way possible.
"We couldn't believe it," Curtis said. "I think we all tripped over our jaws walking in."
While Curtis apologized for wearing a Canadiens jersey on Carolina's bus, Caiden got autographs from many of the players, and a picture with Stempniak after proudly proclaiming him as his favorite player to the whole bus.
"In the middle of a playoff push, this team went above and beyond anything that was expected and made a little boy's first NHL experience an unforgettable one," Curtis said. "They have gained a fan for life, and for what they did for my son, I am OK that he's not a Habs fan.
"It was awesome. The Carolina Hurricanes made such an impact on my son that I will cherish forever."