Anderson McDuffie, having gone through two major heart surgeries by the age of 10, didn't just want to meet his favorite team, the Dallas Stars. He wanted to play them too.
Boy did he get what he wished for.
The Stars went all out for McDuffie on Wednesday, organizing a game with the whole team against McDuffie's youth hockey team and gave them the complete professional experience that included a police escorted arrival on a bus, a scrap with Dallas defenseman John Klingberg and postgame interviews.
The Dallas Stars Foundation and Make-A-Wish Foundation partnered to make the game of a lifetime happen for McDuffie, who was born with heart condition, and his teammates on The EKGs. McDuffie dropped the ceremonial puck at the Stars' game on Dec. 8 and the Stars shared his story on the scoreboard. After McDuffie, who loves playing hockey, dropped the puck, they surprised him by announcing he'd get his wish to play against the Stars.
McDuffie's big day on Wednesday started with The EKGs hopping off a bus at the Stars' practice facility, StarCenter in Frisco, Texas. They were welcomed by a lively crowd of fans who'd come out to watch the scrimmage.
Inside, the players were greeted with a decked out locker room with their jerseys and personalized, homemade signs and an EKG team cake.
The Stars social media team chronicled the event like they would a real game, tweeting out the score and The EKGs starting lineup.
During the game, McDuffie mixed it up with Klingberg. McDuffie claimed the defenseman was pushing him around, but Klingberg pleaded his innocence.
"Terrible. [My] first career fight was terrible," Kilingberg said. "I was just standing up on the blueline playing defense and (McDuffie) was just coming after me and I had to protect myself."
McDuffie originally wanted to get into it with Stars forward Jamie Benn, but because they were teammates, he went for Klingberg instead.
"I think there's a reason Klinger doesn't fight," Benn said. "Anderson took it to him."
McDuffie ended up scoring the game-winning goal, and Stars defenseman Roman Polak scooped him up and took him on a victory lap around the ice.
"It's great just see the smiles on everyone in the arena, everyone was enjoying it, our team for sure was enjoying it, the kids were for sure enjoying it, I'm pretty sure the parents and everyone visiting was enjoying it as well," Klingberg said. "It was pretty emotional."
After the game, McDuffie and the Stars players met with the media for interviews, where McDuffie got another taste of life in the pros and the players got to reflect on a special afternoon.
"Anderson's been battling throughout his life," Benn said. "It just puts things into perspective. In the end, we just play a game. There's more to life than just hockey. Obviously we're fortunate enough to play for this team and be able to come to this rink every day and battle and I think we found some inspiration today, knowing Anderson's story."
"I'm getting old but it wasn't that long ago that I was a kid around (McDuffie's) age and I had players that were my favorite players, guys like Mats Sundin and Steve Yzerman," Seguin said. "To ever think that at some point you'd be some little guy's favorite player is still special and surreal.
"When I had a chance to meet with him a few weeks ago, I was really excited, hearing his story and obviously I knew today was coming but it was more fun than I could've imagined and I'm excited that I got a chance to hang out with him for a couple of hours."
"There were some good players out there, including Anderson," Benn said. "It was a great day and I kinda wish we could play a little longer."