Jillian Murphy thought she was sending an innocent chirp at Brad Marchand on Twitter, but the Boston Bruins forward turned the exchange into an encounter she will never forget.
Marchand invited the diehard Bruins fan, who is battling Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, to meet the team after their game March 5 and then to attend Boston's next two games.
"Meeting Marchand and the other players was the experience of a lifetime," Murphy told NHL.com. "I religiously watch and root for the Bruins, so to be able to meet the team, spend time and talk hockey with them was really special."
Murphy, 28, has been living with EDS, a chronic and progressive illness that inflicts pain on her body and requires constant treatment, for the past 10 years.She lives in Pennsylvania but first met Marchand and other members of the Bruins during an annual holiday trip to a Boston-area hospital where she regularly receives treatment.
Murphy never misses a Bruins game on television and caught Marchand's attention when captain Zdeno Chara asked her what she thought of their game against the Arizona Coyotes the night before.
"I told them that despite winning the game 4-3, I wasn't pleased with the team turnovers," Murphy said. "On the way out, Marchand said 'I'll think of you yelling at me on TV every time I turn the puck over.'"
Murphy tweeted at Marchand, telling him not to turn the puck over during the game she was attending against the Carolina Hurricanes, which her brother, Shane, had bought her tickets to for Christmas. Marchand asked if she could come down to say hello after the game and pulled some strings to get her postgame locker-room access.
"She had such a great personality when we were [at the hospital]," Marchand told the Bruins website. "She was awesome to be around; very talkative, loves the Bruins. She was talking the entire time and kind of carrying the conversation and had so much to say."
The Bruins also hooked her up with tickets for their two remaining games on the homestand, against the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers. Murphy got pictures with Marchand and his wife Katrina, and even got to meet and take a picture with Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, her favorite player.
"Meeting [Bergeron] was amazing," Murphy said. "It was a bucket-list item, for sure."
The Marchands also took interest in Murphy's EDS story and blog, "Living with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome" which she uses to update her condition and spread awareness about her illness.
The gestures, coupled with the Marchands continued support, have left Murphy feeling the love from her favorite team.
"To feel this level of support from the team; it keeps me going and is unbelievable," she said. "I'm blessed with a strong support system... now I feel an additional support system from the Bruins and their passionate fan base, which is an amazing feeling."