Oshawa teen with cerebral palsy befriends Nashville Predator
Published Tuesday, February 23, 2016 7:24PM EST
A Toronto-area teen was treated to a hockey game thanks to a hometown hockey hero, Nashville Predator James Neal.
Doctors thought 16-year-old Sam Keane would never be able to play hockey, a sport that he loved even as a young child.
The Oshawa resident has cerebral palsy, and his parents were told he may never even be able to walk. CP is a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement and motor skills.
But Keane defied the predictions, walking on his own and even learning his favourite sport.
"I love being out here on the road, carving it up and ripping those shots," he told CTV Toronto's Heather Wright, hockey stick in hand.
Keane also loves to watch hockey, but his favourite team is not the Toronto Maple Leafs. The teen cheers for the Nashville Predators, mostly because of his idol.
Neal is a left winger and alternate captain for the team, but he grew up playing hockey in the streets and rinks of Durham region.
The Whitby native met Keane last August at Grandview Children's Centre, a not-for-profit children's treatment centre that provides specialized programs and support for children and youth with special needs.
Neal met Keane just a few days before he was supposed to undergo surgery, and the two kept in touch. The NHLer often sends Keane words of encouragement, while the teen cheers on his favourite player from home.
"It's special to have a role model like that. It's really helped my morale," Keane said Tuesday.
His parents said his friendship with Keane has motivated him to keep pushing himself, despite his disorder.
"He's always in good spirits. It always gives him a lift," his father Ian Keane told CTV.
"He went through some pretty tough times and it really cheered him up."
On Friday, Neal sent Keane a message, saying he had a surprise for him: two tickets to the Nashville Predators' game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"Sam started screaming," his mother Kathy Keane said Tuesday.
The teen said he had a long day at school, waiting to see his favourite team and player in action. Dressed in a Predators jacket and jersey, Keane asked his dad to go to the game with him.
In addition to watching the game, the pair were given a behind-the-scenes tour and got to meet some of the other Predators' players.
The puck dropped at 7:30 p.m.