On a Wing and a Prayer

Detroit Red Wings Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom Grants Seriously Ill Boy’s Wish

Article appeared on April 21, 2009 on the Make-A-Wish Web site
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Two Nicks skated across the Hockeytown ice at Joe Louis Arena after the Detroit Red Wings’ practice. One was a six-time Norris Trophy winner and captain of the NHL’s reigning Stanley Cup champions. The other was a six-month leukemia survivor, and with every stride across the ice, his wish was coming true.

As Nicklas Lidstrom battled through the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs, 14-year-old Nick watched from a hospital bed 45 minutes away from his Maple Grove, Minn. home. Nick, a hockey player himself, had just been diagnosed with leukemia. Although he was just beginning what would become a five-and-a-half-month hospital stay, he didn’t let it keep him from watching his hero’s quest for the cup.

When the Make-A-Wish Foundation offered Nick a wish, he narrowed it down to two choices: Skate with Nicklas Lidstrom or visit the Ferrari factory in Italy.

“In the end, I picked what I loved the most,” Nick said. “My brother got me into hockey when I was about 5, and I liked Lidstrom because we had the same name. He’s been my favorite player ever since.”

When Nick was well enough to travel, he and his family boarded a plane headed for Hockeytown. After a tour of Joe Louis Arena and VIP seats at the Red Wings’ morning skate, Lidstrom asked Nick to join him on the ice.

“The majority of the team stayed on the ice after practice,” Nick said, “[Lidstrom] invited me to join the guys in a shootout against [goalie] Ty Conklin, and I scored on him! The players were all cheering for me and joking and teasing each other. They were really fun.”

Lidstrom said he was honored Nick wished to meet him – especially over a trip to Italy. “I’m happy that I can help out with something that’s very simple for me,” he told a reporter from the Grand Rapids Press. “I’m here every day, so it feels good to make a kid happy like this. Makes me feel a little special, too.”

Nick then joined Lidstrom in the locker room and unlaced his skates next to him at Chris Chelios’ locker. The team treated him to tickets to the following night’s game and armload of autographs.

Nick’s mom, Sue, smiled brightly as she watched her son’s dream come true.

“Nick always had a positive attitude and kept his sense of humor throughout his treatment, and I’ll never forget how happy he was out on the ice with the players,” she said. “He had a big smile on his face, and you knew he was having fun … His wish was something [our family] would never have been able to give Nick on our own.”

Reflecting on his Red Wings experience and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Nick added, “They really know how to show a kid a good time!”