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NHL Winter Classic

Winter Classic delivers wishes to two cancer survivors

Take in practices at Cotton Bowl, meet players from Stars, Predators

by Tracey Myers @Tramyers_NHL / Staff Writer

Make-A-Wish Stars fans attend WC

Stars fans fighting cancer begin Winter Classic fun

Two Stars fans who are fighting cancer begin their Make-A-Wish 2020 NHL Winter Classic experience as they meet players and coaches

  • 01:03 •

DALLAS -- Brenden Butler and Carter Stegman each fulfilled a dream, watching the practices of the Dallas Stars and the Nashville Predators at Cotton Bowl Stadium on Tuesday and meeting players from each team afterward, thanks to Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Dallas Stars.

They'll make more memories when they and their families return to the stadium to watch the Stars play the Predators in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Wednesday (2 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS).

Stegman, of Haysville, Kansas, battled Langerhans cell histiocytosis, a rare disorder that affects white blood cell production. His stepfather, Riley Stegman, said Carter is doing much better, but the 3-year-old still receives chemotherapy every morning and night for another year because the chances of the disease coming back are high. 


[RELATED: 2020 NHL Winter Classic coverage]


Butler, of Plano, Texas, about 20 miles north of Dallas, has fought Ewing's Sarcoma, a cancerous tumor that grows in bones or in the tissue around bones, in his left foot. The 18-year-old had below-the-knee amputation and finished chemotherapy in September.

But on Tuesday, it was all about hockey. 

Stegman and Butler went into the Stars locker room and met several players, including goalie Ben Bishop and forwards Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski. Stegman got to do a few passes with sticks and a softball with Hintz, one of his favorite players

"It's great to see them and be a hero for them," Hintz said. "It's such a big thing."

Riley Stegman said, "I could tell how much [Carter] was enjoying it, watching him shoot the softball with Roope. We've met players, shook hands, people are giving us towels, we've stayed in a hotel that I'd never be able to put my family in. I can't begin to thank everybody involved as much as I can. NHL, the Stars, Make-a-Wish. It's something else."

They also watched the Stars practice, with Butler holding Stegman along the glass so he could see. Butler also talked with "NHL on NBC" analyst Eddie Olczyk, who was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer in 2017. Olczyk, who announced he was cancer free in March 2018, told Butler he would send him a copy of his book, "Beating the Odds in Hockey and Life." 

"At a little loss for words after that," Butler said. "He's one of the coolest guys I'll ever meet. He's been just great for the NHL, a great spokesperson for Hockey Fights Cancer. He shares his story and he's really inspirational to a lot of people. And being able to meet him might even make the whole experience [better] just because he's that great of a guy."

Butler and Stegman finished their afternoon by meeting Predators defenseman Roman Josi and forwards Craig Smith and Rocco Grimaldi.

"I can't even begin to imagine the stuff they've gone through and how strong they are to go through it," Smith said. "I'm thrilled they want to come here and that I got to go out and meet them and be a part of that. I was happy to be there for their day."

Butler enjoyed Tuesday but he's looking forward to the Winter Classic even more.

"No matter what the outcome is, I know it's going to be a really good experience," Butler said. "Even talking to the players, they're all looking forward to it, so you can only imagine how I'm feeling as a fan. I know, with everything that everyone has organized for my family and Carter's family, it's going to be unforgettable to say the least; [it's] just going to be a really great day."

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