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Hockey Is For Everyone

NHL's top players help wishes come true for kids at All-Star Game

O'Reilly, Binnington among those who make evening special for children dealing with severe medical issues

by William Douglas @WdouglasNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- Simeon Schlaggar had an unexpected hockey homecoming this weekend.

Simeon, who moved from St. Louis to Baltimore 18 months ago, found himself back in the city where he began playing hockey and stunned to find himself inside the locker rooms at Enterprise Center on Friday night visiting with St. Louis Blues center Ryan O'Reilly, goalie Jordan Binnington and other players participating in the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend.

"My heart was pounding the entire time," Simeon said. "You walk into a room and suddenly you just see all these really great players. It takes your breath away immediately."

 

[RELATED: Hockey Is For Everyone coverageComplete 2020 NHL All-Star Game coverage]

 

The 14-year-old, who endured chemotherapy treatment for a rare form of cancer, was surprised with the locker room visits through Make-A-Wish.

He toured the locker rooms with 8-year-old Olivier Couture of Sherbrooke, Quebec, and Spencer McNamara, 18, of Louisdale, Nova Scotia, who attended the weekend All-Star festivities through Children's Wish of Canada. The three roamed wide-eyed as they chatted and posed for pictures with Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang or whichever all-star happened to pass by.

Make-A-Wish recipient Spencer McNamara, left, with Oilers forward Connor McDavid

 

Simeon gravitated to Blues players present and past, spending time with O'Reilly, Binnington and former St. Louis right wing T.J. Oshie, who is now with the Washington Capitals.

Though he now lives and plays hockey in Baltimore -- Capitals territory -- Simeon said he's forever Blues, much to the chagrin of Washington goalie Braden Holtby and defenseman John Carlson.

"Holtby and John Carlson, they gave me a hard time," said Simeon, who wore a Blues hat during his tour. "They said 'When you back to see us play, we'll get you another hat.' You'll have to convince me with more than just a hat."

Video: Make A Wish hockey fans experience All-Star Weekend

Brad Schlaggar, Simeon's father, said his son's love for the Blues helped him battle acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of blood cancer. He was diagnosed in March 16, 2016, and began a lengthy chemotherapy regimen almost immediately.

"A lot of that recovery happened intertwined with the Blues' successes, the playoffs and eventually the [Stanley] Cup," Schlaggar said. "He thinks of that period of life as linked to the Blues' success; it's really meaningful. So when we learned that the NHL All-Star Weekend would be here, even though we were newly into to Baltimore, we knew it had to be it (Make-A-Wish) for him."

O'Reilly said he was thrilled to meet Simeon and his family.

"It's awesome, so special and a privilege to have an impact like that," he said. "It's really cool. They're having a great time being around us, enjoying it. And it makes us feel good."

Olivier, who had a kidney transplant in April, was all smiles after he received a Montreal Canadiens jersey signed by goalie Carey Price and chatted in French with Letang and Florida Panthers left wing Jonathan Huberdeau.

"It was very fun for him," said Michel Couture, Olivier's father. "This was very good for his spirits."

Spencer McNamara wore a black Pittsburgh Penguins hat and jersey. He spent a lot of time talking with Letang, as well as with Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, a fellow Nova Scotian.

"This was crazy, I was pumped," said Spencer, who's dealing with a traumatic brain injury stemming from a 2018 automobile accident. "It was awesome."

Make-A-Wish recipient Spencer McNamara with Penguins defenseman Kris Letang

 

Shannon McNamara, Spencer's mother, said the locker-room visit was one of the best experiences her son has had since the accident.

"Since his injury, he's hard time expressing his emotions, and today was one of the first days I've seen him full-out have those come to the surface," she said. "It's been a crazy year and a-half, but something like this, it kind of makes you put all those worries aside that we've been dealing with and just be able to be carefree and enjoy."

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