Longtime Pittsburgh Penguins fans Amy and Mike Santora had never been to a playoff game before, and the way they made it to Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final was a tale too strange for fiction.
Last Wednesday started with a death in the family, which gave the day a somber tone while the parents of three daughters drudged through their normal, hectic routine. Amy was home from work looking after their two teenagers and 5-year-old when she got a text message around 7:30 p.m. that was clearly not intended for her.
The sender had been sent to another state for work and had tickets to the Penguins' game against the Nashville Predators at PPG Paints Arena. They were looking for someone named Julianne to give them to.
Amy wrote back that this was the wrong number but she'd take the tickets anyway, mostly as a joke. But then the person responded, still not understanding the situation. The tickets would be waiting for Julianne at will call, though the person wondered why Amy had her phone. When she finally cleared up that she did not know Julianne or have her phone, a man called Amy and told her that he'd give her the tickets if he couldn't get a hold of Julianne.
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"My heart started racing like a million miles an hour, like, 'Are you kidding me? This does not happen,'" Amy told NHL.com.
Five minutes later, the man called back and Amy scrambled to answer the phone with juice dripping all over her from the juice box her 5-year-old had just hurled at her.
He found Julianne and Amy couldn't hide the disappointment in her voice. But, he added, she'd only taken one pair, so the other two were Amy's. All he asked was she say hello to the usher named Edward and they were even.
"I said, 'Are you messing with me?' and he's like, 'I swear to you, I'm not messing with you. Just spell your last name and they'll be at will call,'" she said.
And that's when Mike came home after a 14-hour day.
"As we're wrapping up the conversation, my husband walks in the door and he's exhausted because he had been up since 4 in the morning, he hadn't eaten all day and he has no clue what's going on," she said. "So I'm screaming at him and my kids are yelling because they're happy and they're telling me, 'Just go, go, go.'"
Mike didn't know what was going on until they were in the car and Amy had a chance to explain. Not knowing for sure if this was legit, they agreed to watch the game on the big screen outside of the arena if they didn't actually have tickets to the game. They hadn't had a night out since their anniversary in September.
The normally congested road to downtown Pittsburgh was clear and as they approached the arena looking for a parking space, a man jumped out in front of them and told them his lot was full but someone was leaving so they could have that spot.
They raced to the will call window and the tickets were waiting for them. Two seats behind the net with a face value of more than $300 per ticket.
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When they got to their seats, right after puck drop, they had to take a few minutes to let everything sink in.
"I cannot believe he gave these tickets to us out of the goodness of his heart and we're total strangers to him," she said.
Amy used to go to Penguins games all the time when she was in her teens and 20s, but once she had a family, she couldn't go anymore. This was her first game since 1995 and the Penguins won 4-1.
Considering how miraculous her evening had been, she wasn't expecting anything less than a Pittsburgh win to top it off. And she, of course, held up her end of the bargain and said hello to the usher named Edward.
The mysterious man was Brad Hayward, a surgeon from Beaver Falls, Pa., who told ABC News that he had given tickets away before, but never to a stranger.
"I felt like Santa Claus," he said.
Amy says his random act of kindness came at a time when she and her husband needed it most, and she'll always be grateful for that.
"I can't grasp that somebody would do that for a total stranger, that's what I can't get over," she said. "We had been having a string bad luck lately and I was getting kind of negative and down in general and this was my sign from the heavens or the hockey gods or something, there are good people out there and don't give up. And I don't know that he'll ever really realize what he did."