In a lot of ways, it was the most exciting hockey game of the year.
Fans jammed into the practice rink at StarCenter Frisco and pressed up against the glass. Stars players wore game sweaters and smiles. And Anderson McDuffie and his team of buddies had full uniforms and looks of determination.
It was a wish come true.
McDuffie is 10. He has already had two open heart surgeries and he has become a huge fan of hockey, despite his challenges. So when he was asked what he would like if he could have any wish, he said he wanted his friends to play a game against his favorite team, the Dallas Stars.
On Wednesday, McDuffie and his friends did just that, and the result was an electric afternoon for more than just one young man.
"I had chills," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "Being on the bench when they were playing against the Stars players, the look on their faces, the smiles, the energy, and then the crowd turnout. It was just a great day for those kids and a great day for hockey in Dallas."
McDuffie selected a team that included his brother Keagan and nine other friends. The young players are all skilled, and gave the Stars all they could handle in a two period scrimmage that ended with Anderson scoring the winning goal in a 6-5 victory.
The first period was the young players (with additions Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov) against the Stars. The second period saw the two sides mixed up. Included in the contest was Anderson and John Klingberg getting in a fight, and then Anderson being paraded around the rink at the end by Roman Polak.
Video: McDuffie, Seguin on special Make-A-Wish day vs. Stars
"To see his crazy dreams and hopes come to life, right now it doesn't seem real," said Anderson's mom Loan. "It's like a miracle. It's a miracle that he's even skating, it's a miracle that he's even alive. To see him go out there and hang out with his heroes, and they were smiling, and he was smiling, and he brought all of his friends in … this is the essence of Anderson."
And that was the amazing feel of the afternoon. This really was the embodiment of Anderson McDuffie's spirit. He was mostly quiet in the postgame interviews and referred to day as "fun," and "exciting." But on the ice, he was a dynamo. He played to the crowd, he banged on the glass with his stick, he flailed away at Klingberg in their "fight" and he simply had a great time.
"There was a lot of energy and adrenaline, and that was awesome," said his dad Chad, who added that having so many friends share the moment on Team EKG really accentuated the wish for his son.
"That was the best part," Chad McDuffie said. "Most wishes, you are kind of by yourself doing things or with your family, but being able to have his family and his friends here, and all be out there together and all be a part of it, that was awesome."
Anderson's sister Delaney was an honorary Ice Girl. She has raised more than $14,000 for Make-A-Wish by creating bracelets and selling them.
And just as it was a team effort on the ice, the people behind the scenes did a fantastic job to make the event happen. Make-A-Wish, the City of Frisco, the Stars Foundation and a host of volunteers came together to create an environment that was just like a real game. There was a media day photo shoot for the kids, a police escort to the game, Ice Girls to clean the ice, game day production and presentation, Stu Barnes and Vernon Fiddler served as honorary coaches, Marty Turco and Bob Bassen served as referees, Josh Bogorad and Daryl Reaugh called the game in the arena. The EKG jerseys were donated by K1 Sportswear.
Player relations manager Christa Melia did a lot of work to assemble the pieces, but said that once the departments all engaged that things came together smoothly.
"Our staff is amazing, and everyone added something," Melia said. "It was great, I'm very proud of everybody. The players did such a good job, and they had such a good time. Jamie (Benn) came off and said, 'That was such a good time, I'm so glad we did that.' So everybody wins, it was a great day."
Video: Benn calls Make-A-Wish event inspiring to be part of
The Stars have been struggling with finding the right attitude in the middle of a 1-4-0 slump on the ice, so Wednesday's "game" could actually be something that helps them.
"What Anderson has been battling throughout his life, it puts things in perspective," Benn said. "We're fortunate enough to play in this league and be able to come to this rink every day and battle, I think we found some inspiration today knowing Anderson's story."
Seguin sat with Anderson and his brother Keagan in the postgame media session and was even joined by Anderson's dog Bohdi. It was the kind of thing that made hockey seem more like the game these professionals played when they were kids.
"It's a little surreal. I'm getting old, but it wasn't that long ago that I was a kid and my favorite players were guys like Mats Sundin or Steve Yzerman," Seguin said. "To think you'd be some little guy's favorite player is still special. To be able to spend time with him and hear his story, it was more fun than you can imagine. It's a great feeling. I'm sure he had a great time today, but we had just as much fun."
Video: How the Stars made Anderson McDuffie's wish a reality
Added Seguin: "I know it's the middle of the season, but sometimes we can use a day like today. It's a boost of energy, a boost of excitement."
And for Anderson, it's a memory that will live on.
"He asked for his wish, and everybody came together. The City of Frisco, Make-A-Wish, the Dallas Stars Foundation, the players, the schools, I mean I can't mention everybody … a million people who were involved in this crazy big game that he made up, and you all made it happen, and I'm so thankful," Loan McDuffie said.
"This mom loves you. We will remember this forever."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.