TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning had a special guest on the ice during their morning skate at Amalie Arena on Saturday.
Weston Hermann, an 11-year-old Lightning fan who was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2014, led the morning stretch, worked on face-offs and even put a few shots past goalie Peter Budaj.
"I was really nervous," Hermann said. "[Lightning coach Jon Cooper] just told me to go in the circle and lead the stretch. I was like 'I don't know what to do, I don't know what stretches they do.'"
After that, he worked on his shot with Yanni Gourde and his favorite player, Steven Stamkos.
"It was unbelievable," Hermann said. "It was really fun. I am hoping to play with [Stamkos] when I get older. He has [seven years left on an eight-year] contract now. If he signs another contract I can still play with him."
Hermann, who was given a full uniform and a locker stall next to defenseman Andrej Sustr, has undergone several rounds of chemotherapy during the past three years. That hasn't stopped him from playing hockey for a youth league in Ellenton, Florida; he has 10 goals in six games.
He was a guest at Cooper's annual "Coop's Catch for the Kids" charity fishing tournament earlier this month. The event raised $150,000 for pediatric cancer research and programming.
"The Lightning organization and coach Cooper have been so supportive," Hermann's mother, Marcie, said. "They took him fishing and they play hockey, his two favorite things. This way you just forget about everything else. You don't talk about it. You talk about hockey."
Gourde said that the Lightning draw as much inspiration from Hermann as he does from watching them play.
"It probably does mean a lot to him, but it means a lot to us to have him out there," Gourde said. "Obviously, he's going through a rough time. But it's really fun to be able to have him join us, and we can feed off his courage. It's great to have him around. He is a really nice kid."