NEWARK, N.J. -- Sawyer and Simon Seidl couldn't help but react with wonder.
The brothers were in the New Jersey Devils locker room staring at P.K. Subban's stall and meeting their idol in person hours before the Devils' game against the Anaheim Ducks at Prudential Center on Wednesday.
The brothers were adopted at ages 3 and 5 from the Democratic Republic of Congo by Molly and Steve Seidl and moved to Stillwater, Minnesota, where they were introduced to hockey. They grew to admire Subban, a three-time Norris Trophy finalist who was voted as the NHL's top defenseman while playing for the Montreal Canadiens in 2012-13.
Their story was documented by NBC's "Today" show in October, and it caught the attention of Subban, who was beginning his first season with the Devils and gave them a shoutout on Twitter.
Simon is a 13-year-old defenseman who like Sawyer, a 15-year-old forward, aspires to become the first representatives from Congo to play in the NHL. Spending time with someone whose life-size decal is on a wall at home could only be epitomized in so many words.
"It was just wild," Simon said. "He's been one of my favorite players that I've looked up to for hockey since I started following him."
Simon and Sawyer were making their first visit to New York and were amazed by the holiday lights and the trip to Newark as invited guests of Subban and the Devils to watch the morning skate. They were given red jerseys of Subban's No. 76 and tickets to the game. They visited NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, were given credit to shop at the NHL Store then met with Subban and fiancée Lindsay Vonn after New Jersey's 3-1 win.
The next morning, Sawyer and Simon were in-studio guests on "Today" and received a holiday surprise. NBC correspondent Savannah Sellers was with their hockey team in Minnesota, where they received equipment from DICK's Sporting Goods donated by Subban and adidas.
It completed another chapter in their book of memories. Enrolled in youth hockey after Steve bought them their first set of equipment, their love for the game caught on quickly. Sawyer and Simon have played in tournaments nationwide and overseas and recently made their local junior varsity team.
"Hockey for me is like, if you're playing for a team, once you start getting older and building chemistry, there's no such thing as one player doing it," Sawyer said. "Hockey I feel like is the one (sport) that depends if you guys play as a team."
Whether or not the Seidls make it to the NHL, the game has helped them open more doors on a global scale while growing as young men.
"It's unbelievable," Steve said. "It makes me feel good that first off they love the game and second off they're excelling. The places, the opportunities that affords them for their futures, are incredible. The fact that they're enjoying it while they're achieving lots of things is fun and it's actually brought us to meet a lot of new people and go through a lot of different places."