NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils signed 9-year-old Santino Anastasia to a one-day contract on Friday.
Anastasia, who is currently being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, is a big Devils fan and was the guest of honor at Prudential Center as part of the NHL's Hockey Fights Cancer initiative. The Devils host the Chicago Blackhawks (7:30 p.m. ET; MSG+, WGN, NHL.TV).
A native of Kinnelon, New Jersey, Anastasia was joined by his 6-year-old brother Giancarlo, his mother Michele, and father Arthur, and not only signed a contract under the watchful eye of general manager Ray Shero, but dropped the ceremonial puck before the game.
"I received glowing reports regarding Santino at the skate this morning," Shero said. "This is a great day for him, his mother, Michele, father, Arthur and brother, Giancarlo. We are all honored to have him join the New Jersey Devils organization."
Anastasia also joined the rest of the media for Devils coach John Hynes' press scrum after the morning skate. Hynes looked at Anastasia and they both smiled when the coach announced that he's in need of a good left-handed center.
"He became a Devils fan when he was 3," Arthur Anastasia said. "I got some tickets and what I found remarkable was that during intermission when we went for sodas and hot dogs, the game started again, and Santino said 'Dad, come on they're playing.' So he didn't want to miss any part of it. Ever since then, with the exception being after he was diagnosed with leukemia, we used to come to games regularly."
Anastasia was 7 when he was diagnosed with leukemia on March 18, 2014.
"He's doesn't show much expression until after it settles in a bit," Michele Anastasia said. "Then he'll come over and start asking a whole lot of questions like how long he'll be out of school, if he was going to meet all the players and if he should bring thank you cards with his picture on it to give to the players who meet him."
Santino exchanged autographed pucks with goaltender Cory Schneider after the morning skate.
After receiving his autographed puck from Santino, Schneider took a few pictures with his new friend before displaying the puck prominently on the shelf of his locker stall.
Devils forward Vernon Fiddler, whose 8-year-old sister died of leukemia when he was 4, was one of many players to meet with Santino after the morning skate.
"You don't know what that little guy has gone through but you've got to give these young guys credit, they're little kids who don't know what's going on or what's being pumped into their body but all they do is keep fighting," Fiddler said. "It's definitely an inspiration for our team and we'll definitely be playing for him [Friday]."