A recent Minnesota Wild game had a few tears and a happy ending — all before the puck dropped.
While the Wild warmed up for their match against the Edmonton Oilers Oct. 22, three young fans — Emily Wiltzius, and brothers Brayden and Logan McCann — looked on in hopes of catching a puck. As warm-up continued and his hands remained empty, 7-year-old Logan began to get worried, then teary, before breaking out in sobs, his hand pressed against the glass.
It's the kind of pathos that would thaw even the hardest heart.
Noticing the three kids, Wild winger Mats Zuccarello skated nearby to toss some pucks over the glass. Sandwiched between his 8-year-old brother Brayden and 11-year-old Emily, Logan's chances of catching one were slim.
What ensued was the sweetest, most polite game of "hot potato" ever.
Emily, who didn't know the boys, caught the first puck and handed it to Brayden. Brayden caught the second puck and handed it to Emily. Emily then handed that puck to a teary-eyed Logan, who clutched it in his hands in awe before turning to Emily to whisper a heartfelt, "thank you."
All of it was caught on video and shared by the NHL on Twitter. Naturally, it went viral.
When Wild player Jason Zucker and his wife, Carly, saw the clip, they set out to find the kids. In a tweet shared by hundreds of people, Carly wrote: "Oh my my … calling all twitter friends: help us find out who these sweet kiddos are! They deserve ALL the pucks. Message me if you have any info!"
"As a parent, watching that little boy cry and that girl handing him the puck, it was heart-wrenching," said Carly.
With the help of Twitter, they found the boys and sent them a package of signed gear. They invited them as guests to a Wild game in the future.
For Emily, a hockey player herself, the Zuckers offered tickets to that Saturday night's game. There, she was presented with 26 pucks, signed by all the Minnesota Wild players.
"I thanked her for being such a positive influence. She said, 'I can't believe giving these boys these pucks turned into all this,' " said Carly. "She didn't realize how great it is to see those positive stories right now."
Carly shared the update with her Twitter followers: "What a night we had hanging w/ sweet Emily & her fam! Thx to everyone who helped us reach out to this incredible gal & make her night extra special. A reminder that small & large acts of kindness can have a major impact on our community."
As for Logan, his mom Kim McCann says he can be emotional, so she wasn't surprised when she saw the video of him crying at the game. However, she never expected the clip would go viral in the days following.
"It's crazy. We didn't know anything about it until someone sent us the link," she said.
"I'm sure he was just a little bit tired and sad, and then very happy when he finally got the puck. Logan is the kind of kid who wears his heart on his sleeve."
And, she added, he's been sleeping with the puck every night since the game.