“Hockey fans…will you please welcome out to the ice...your Edmonton Oilers!”
While Oilers fans are accustomed to hearing Oilers voice Mark Lewis belt out this familiar greeting prior to warmup at Rexall Place, those in attendance during this past Saturday’s Battle of Alberta were hearing it from first-time announcer and lifetime Oilers fan Markus Sahaydakivsky.
Markus was diagnosed with three brain tumours in February 2014 and unfortunately lost his vision as a result, leaving him legally blind. He is currently on a weekly chemotherapy treatment plan at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, with an MRI scheduled every three months. As the ultimate Oilers fan, Markus’ wish was to come watch live Oilers hockey at Rexall Place and to meet his hockey hero, Taylor Hall.
Dreams really do come true as the Starlight Children’s Foundation and Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation (EOCF) helped make his wish a reality.
Through it all, his passion for Oilers hockey and his positive attitude have never wavered.
“Markus is smart, spry, very outgoing and can call a hockey game like it’s his job,” shared Anne Borkowski, Wish Coordinator, Starlight Children’s Foundation.
For over 30 years, the Starlight Children’s Foundation has been a leading global charity improving the lives and health of kids and their families. It partners with more than 1,750 healthcare facilities and major pediatric hospitals around the world, serving millions of children every year.
Oil Country welcomed Markus and his family with open arms as their whirlwind journey began at the Oilers morning skate where Markus set off into the Oilers locker room alongside other media for a special interview with his favourite player, #4.
Lining up his questions, Markus got down to business to talk pre-game rituals, game strategy and even CFL and NFL football.
“He had all of his questions ready, even some tough ones, but what a cool kid. We learned we had a lot of similarities actually and that’s pretty unreal for the two of us to have that much in common,” said Hall.
After hanging out with Hall (and learning that they’re both Green Bay Packers fans), Markus continued to light up Rexall Place with his larger-than-life personality, walking up and down the aisles in-bowl and introducing himself to some of the local and national media on-hand. Oilers play-by-play voice Jack Michaels even stopped by to invite the sports fanatic as a special guest on his 630 CHED pre-game show.
While plenty took special notice of the youngster, Markus also caught the attention of Cassie Campbell-Pascall from CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC), who arranged for Markus to make his national television debut during a second period interview where he was able to share his thoughts on the game action and his Oilers experience.
After an extremely difficult year, seeing her son live out his Oilers dream meant the world to Markus’ mom Diane Sahaydakivsky.
“This has really been a dream come true for our son,” said Sahaydakivsky. “Markus has kept his positive outlook on life and today has been incredible for him. From the moment Markus got to the rink he has just felt so special.”
At the end of Markus’ dream-come-true day, his mom shared that Markus made a second wish, this time for a rewind button so that he could replay his day with the Oilers over and over again. With plenty of audio, video and interviews captured from his appearances on 630 CHED, CBC’s HNIC and of course, Oilers TV, the EOCF is certain Markus’ wish will be granted yet again.