Sam Tageson has long worshipped the San Jose Sharks as his favorite NHL team. But even he was overwhelmed when the organization decided to dedicate an entire day to one of its biggest fans.
Working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Sharks pulled out all the stops for Tageson, 18, a lifelong fan struggling with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a life-threatening heart condition. Tageson was informed two weeks ago that he would be spending the day with his favorite team. But that wasn't enough to prepare him for the special day at SAP Center at San Jose.
It started Tuesday morning when Tageson officially signed a one-day contract with the club, complete with an appearance by Sharks general manager Doug Wilson and the obligatory media scrum. Surrounded by reporters and photographers, it was just the first in a series of thrilling moments for Tageson, who has been playing hockey since age 6.
"It's really awesome. I like it a lot," said Tageson, who will joined NHL Live on Wednesday (5 p.m. ET, NHL Network). "It's a once-in-a lifetime experience."
With his media session completed, Tageson began an eventful day in which he would be involved in every aspect of the Sharks' daily routine.
"We're happy to have him as part of our team. He's going to participate in the whole day. He'll skate out through the shark head, which will be a big thrill for him," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "The Make-A-Wish foundation does another tremendous thing for people that need it. We're happy to participate in that. We're glad that we can be part of his day."
The day proceeded to team practice, where Tageson laced up his skates and participated in drills.
That meant enjoying some 1-on-1 rushes against Sharks goalie Alex Stalock. At one point, Tageson beat Stalock between the legs, a thrilling moment that was captured on camera and posted on the team's Instagram page, which the teenager effectively took over. Over the course of the day, close to 20 photos of Tageson were uploaded to the team's Instagram. Tageson also figured prominently on San Jose's Twitter page, which featured the #SharksWishGranted hashtag.
But the highlight came Tuesday evening when Tageson suited up and skated through the shark head and onto the ice with the team prior to their game against the Florida Panthers. It marked the first time in franchise history anyone other than an active player has joined the team on the ice.
Wearing No. 20, Tageson then joined San Jose's starters for the singing of the national anthem. An emotional day culminated shortly after puck drop when he was shown on the scoreboard, eliciting an ovation from the crowd and players alike at SAP Center. Overcome with emotion, a teary-eyed Tageson saluted the crowd in a moment he isn't likely to ever forget.
"I talked to him a little bit, a nice kid," forward Logan Couture said after practice. "He's super excited to be out there. Our team is very welcoming and guys are super nice. Everyone spent some time with him and talked with him. You can feel how excited he is. It's awesome."