Devin Roque was hooked.
One trip to Bridgestone Arena, one glance of Pekka Rinne, one experience that only hockey can provide - that was it. He wanted nothing more than to play the game.
And then they got the diagnosis.
It was June of 2017 when the word rhabdomyosarcoma entered into the Roque family's vocabulary. A rare form of childhood cancer, eight-year-old Devin had it, ending his dream of playing hockey - at least for the time being.
As Devin, along with his parents, Stephanie and Steven, entered into the unforgiving fight that comes with such a diagnosis, word began to spread to the Nashville Predators Foundation and Make-A-Wish Middle Tennessee of the young fan who continued to dream of being around the game however possible.
But tickets to watch his favorite goaltender play again was just the beginning.
The Predators decided to make Devin a part of their team by signing him to an endless, priceless contract, and alongside Preds Director of Hockey Operations Brian Poile last week in a full-on press conference, Devin put pen to paper to complete the deal and begin a two-day dream experience with the franchise.
"It's the worst negotiation I've ever done in a contract, but for the right reasons," Poile smiled.
Smiling was all the Roque family could do as Devin donned a customized Preds jersey and joined the group for their team photo before residing on the bench during practice. After the formal session was compete, Devin, along with the help of his father, stepped onto the ice to take shots on Rinne before getting into a "fight" with Captain Roman Josi.
Devin even broke the team huddle following the outing with each and every player making sure to speak to their new teammate. And the smallest individual on the ice made a larger-than-life impression.
"When you get an opportunity to spend time with a kid like Devin, it's pretty special," Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "To have him in the locker room and on the ice and on the bench and in the team picture, one day is good, a lifetime contract is better. So, I think it's just a nice touch to the day to have him here and for us to be around him."
"To sign a contract and come and hang out with us and come on the ice and shoot some pucks, that's unbelievable," Rinne said. "That's great that our organization and the team is willing to do that, and for Devin to want to do that, that's great to be a part of it."
The fun continued on Thursday as Devin completed another element in his wish, riding to the game in an 18-wheeler right to the front doors of the arena. Once he was back in the locker room with his teammates, Devin led the group out to the ice before retreating to his own suite for the night, stocked full of chicken tenders and French fries, plus a Kit-Kat cake, more than he could have ever wished for.
As Devin enters week 34 out of a 54-week process, the numbers show his treatments are working, but the battle is not done. There is reassurance, however, knowing he's now got the entire Predators organization on his side and a whole new group of friends to visit whenever he likes.
And maybe one day, Devin's teammates will get to know him in a different light, one that shines over him on the ice as he laces up the skates just like his heroes.
"It's priceless," Stephanie said of her son's experience. "There's no amount of anything that you could ever ask for than to see him happy and smile."
"He loves hockey and is getting into it now, so this is like a big dream come true for him now," Steven said. "It's a good week."
Video: Devin Roque has his wish granted, signs with Preds