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Kids with life-threatening illnesses meet NHL All-Stars

Locker-room visit includes exchange of autographs

by Mike Battaglino / Staff Writer

NASHVILLE -- Six-year-old Nevan Coburn gave out almost as many autographs as he got Saturday while visiting the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game locker rooms.

Nevan, a guest of The Children's Wish Foundation of Canada, took out a Sharpie and his own hockey card and signed it for New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider, the first player he met.

"He said, 'Dad I want to take some cards with me and hand them out to give back to the players,'" his father Derek Coburn said. "... It's absolutely amazing. He got in the dressing room and just froze; he went, 'Dad ... look.'

"... Nevan just loves hockey. Loves to play it, loves to watch it. He recognized a bunch of the players too. As they'd walk in, he saw people and he'd just go, 'That's Roberto [Luongo]; that's P.K. Subban; that's 'Schneids.'"

Schneider was just as happy to meet Nevan.

"I think you forget sometimes that when you were a kid how you felt about the game and what it would mean to meet some of the players," Schneider said. "Now that I'm an adult and having a child of my own you realize how important it is and it just means so much to them, so you try to do whatever you can to give them a memory and an experience that they'll never forget.'

Nevan, who traveled from Vancouver, was one of five guests of The Children's Wish Foundation of Canada and Make-A-Wish America, each of which grants wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses, and the NHL. Wyatt Morisette, an 11-year-old from Calgary; Jack Traxler, a 13-year-old from St. Paul, Minn.; Jonathan Pitre, a 14-year-old from Ottawa; and Ryan Smethurst, a 16-year-old from Calgary, talked with many players from the Eastern and Western Conference teams and got jerseys signed.

They also would attend the Skills Competition on Saturday and the All-Star Game at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday, among other events. It is an annual occurrence at All-Star Weekend.

"The NHL always knocks it out of the park," Karin McKenna of The Children's Wish Foundation said. "They are just amazing. The players were more than hospitable and the whole weekend experience is second to none.

"We're really grateful for our partnership with the NHL, that's for sure."

Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz compared the weather in his Winnipeg hometown with that of Jack's in St. Paul, Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson commiserated with Wyatt about trying to recognize everybody, and Nevan took the time to help Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall tape his stick.

And when Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane got his card from Nevan, he realized he was a left-hand shot, just like him.

The boys all walked away with unforgettable souvenirs and memories, as did Schneider.

"He just offered it straight to me; that was extremely nice of him, very unselfish," Schneider said of Nevan's gift. "I'll keep that and put that in my room."

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