Eleven-year-old Mia Wood had all the right items assembled for a perfect birthday party on Thursday night: family, friends and Nashville Predators hockey.
The celebration took an interesting turn in the first period of the Preds’ game versus the New York Islanders, however, when she got a little closer to the action than was anticipated. A deflected puck flipped over the glass and caught her in the arm - more startling than anything else - but still the start of what could have put a sour note on the evening.
“It was a pass from the corner, and it deflected off of my stick and went over the boards,” Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “I saw it all the way going over the glass, so it worried me, but luckily she was fine.”
At the stoppage caused by the puck entering the stands, Rinne skated over to the section of seats near the right face-off circle and stopped to look into the crowd. The goaltender isn’t used to tipping pucks out of play very often, and said the most important thing to him was making sure Mia was OK.
“My wife and I talked about how rare it is that a professional athlete, that’s in the middle of a game, would take his time to do something like that,” Adam Wood, Mia’s father, said. “For [Rinne] to do that is almost mindboggling. You’re in competitive mode, but you’re taking the time to check on a little girl. You don’t know her and she’s just someone coming to the game.”
After Mia was given the all-clear in the arena’s first aid center, it was back to her seat to watch the rest of game where any lingering tears were quickly dried when Predators staff delivered an autographed stick from the goaltender himself.
“She was ecstatic the rest of the night,” Adam said. “She didn’t let the stick go the rest of the night and she’s still carrying it with her today...She was of course over the moon when she got that. It made the night totally worth it.”
After practice on Friday, Rinne remained modest about his actions that helped save an 11-year-old’s birthday.
“I just felt terrible when it first happened,” Rinne said. “I’m really happy that it didn’t ruin her birthday.”
Ruin her birthday? Not even close.
“She’s already asking about coming to Saturday night’s game,” Adam said.