TORONTO -- The dying wish of a 71-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs fan diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer came true on Monday night when she met her hockey hero, Auston Matthews.

“There are no words, there really are not,” Donna Thomson said of meeting the NHL All-Star. “I can’t express how I feel. I mean, it’s just been phenomenal.”

donna thomson

Sporting a stick-on version of Matthews' trademark mustache and a jersey with his name on the back, the Lindsay, Ont. woman hugged the 22-year-old and said “it’s so nice to meet you.”

“I was really glad he didn’t have his skates on because he would have been too tall,” Thomson said while laughing.

“I like him. I think he has a wonderful smile, I think he has a great personality and he’s a real person, he’s not fake. He’s honest and I really like him. I think he’s very genuine.”

Matthews said he was grateful the meeting was arranged and jokingly added that he thinks the black mustache looks better on Thomson.


Thomson, who was diagnosed in September 2019, sat in a private box at Scotiabank Arena with three others and stayed at a nearby hotel for the night, all courtesy of Matthews, the Toronto Maple Leafs and SickKids Hospital.

During the game, which ended in a 6-4 loss for the Leafs against the Edmonton Oilers, Thomson was seen standing and ringing a cowbell to cheer on Matthews.

“I’ve never met anyone like Donna to watch the games with,” 33-year-old Grant Haire, the neighbour of Thomson’s sister, said. “Most of the times I prefer to watch the game with her than my own friends.”

Donna Thomson

Haire was the one who kick started the campaign for Thomson to meet her hockey hero.

Auston Matthews

After posting a plea for others to share Thomson’s love for hockey and desire to meet Matthews, Haire heard from the director of media relations with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The message said that Matthews had heard about the campaign and wanted to bring Thomson to the game in style.

The Monday night game was the first time Thomson ever watched her favourite team play in person and she called the experience a “real thrill.”

“I’m a fighter – I could mellow down to it and fall apart but I don’t want to do that, I want to enjoy the rest of whatever time I have. I like to feel like I’m moving forward even if I’m not.”