Ceremonial puck-drops always have meaning. They are there for a reason. Something out of the ordinary. For a cause, a movement or a purpose that makes a team or an organization feel it is worthy of its own occasion in front of an entire building, not to mention all of those who are watching on TV.
Saturday was one of those moments. As Edmonton prepared to play Dallas, to centre ice went Jamie Benn of the Stars and James Neal of the Oilers. They were met by eight-year-old Emmitt Brosseau.
He's about the cutest kid you could ever imagine seeing. He's also about the strongest kid you could ever imagine seeing. He calmly and coolly walked out in front of two teams and a packed Rogers Place for the ceremonial puck-drop. He had his dad Jake at his side, just in case, but he didn't need him. Not in this case anyways, but he's needed his father, mother, brother, extended family and the entire medical community's support to survive cancer.
Video: Hockey Fights Cancer Ceremony
Emmitt was just four when he was diagnosed with leukemia. Soak that up for a second and imagine being him or his father or his brother Aayden, or what about mom Nikki? That would hit you harder than anything that could happen on the ice. A little boy who should be playing with friends was instead making regular trips to the hospital for chemotherapy sessions.
File that in the 'life isn't fair' folder. Terrible news and that might be understating it. After countless treatments and years of hoping for something positive, the family got some great news just four weeks ago. Emmitt's cancer is in remission. The family went out to celebrate. In hockey, we celebrate goals. This was the celebration of life and it continuing with the least amount of trauma and intrusion imaginable.
During the second intermission of the Oilers-Stars game, we interviewed the Brosseau family. Emmitt was fantastic. He said he was nervous and never practiced the puck-drop. He liked Neal, who was the team's Hockey Fights Cancer representative. Neal said during a first intermission interview that the feelings were mutual.
The veteran was incredibly impressed with the little boy who was battling so hard against such a terrible disease. The words of one hockey player, but the thoughts of anyone who saw Emmitt at centre ice.
He was the first star Saturday afternoon. There was no doubt about it. Along with him, there were other elements to the afternoon that made it such a success story. The lavender and black jerseys worn in warmup will be auctioned off in support of cancer treatment and research.
There were the Oiler Ladies, and we spoke to two of them - Janelle Benning (Matt's wife) and Lauren Kyle (Connor McDavid's girlfriend) - who helped sell out 5,000 limited-edition toques for $20 each in support of Kids With Cancer Society.
You do the math and the numbers look good for another avenue to help fight a disease that has impacted pretty much everyone you know in one way or another. At the end of the game, the Oilers only got one point instead of two with the OT loss, but it felt like a win with all that was accomplished during a day dedicated to a battle much greater than the play on the ice.