Niagara hockey fan Calvin Goodman scored the gift of a lifetime last Thursday.
Just days after returning home from watching Canada win gold in the World Juniors in the Czech Republic, and having already received a stick from winning goal scorer Akil Thomas, the 24-year-old Goodman had a personal rendezvous with Canada’s golden boy, who signed the stick he gave Goodman after the championship game.
It was a hectic day as the Icedogs faced off with the Hamilton Bulldogs. Thomas, the IceDogs captain, had just been traded to the Peterborough Petes for a player and four draft picks and wasn’t in the lineup against Hamilton.
He was honoured during a short pregame ceremony. Goodman and his father Paul were watching and Paul went on a mission to find Thomas in the arena.
Calvin, an avid hockey fan who regularly attends IceDogs games, was hoping to ask Thomas to sign the prized World Junior stick.
As Calvin watched the game, his dad spent most of the evening trying to connect with Thomas.
The much-anticipated meeting occurred close to the end of the game when Paul took his son to one of the suites where Thomas was watching his former teammates play. The IceDogs lost 7-1 to the Bulldogs that night.
The trio warmly welcomed each other and exchanged greetings before Thomas signed the stick and posed for a photo.
The Goodmans received the stick while they were on a 10-day bus tour in Europe with friends and family. They attended four World Junior games: the two semi-finals, the bronze medal match and the gold medal game.
“It was the best trip ever. We all were strangers when we started but after 10 days, we were a huge family,” Paul told The Lake Report. “It was a fantastic time. Calvin became to everybody like a mascot, an MVP.”
He recalled how after Thomas had scored the decisive goal in the final, everyone who came with them on the bus tour started cheering and shouting, “Let’s go, IceDogs.”
As Team Canada was celebrating the victory on ice, Paul managed to get Thomas’ attention. Thomas grabbed a hockey stick from the bench, stopped for a quick interview with the media and then came over and handed the stick to the Goodmans.
It wasn’t the “golden goal” stick, which will be displayed at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, but it was still a touching gesture.
“When Akil scored, I legit cried,” Calvin said in an interview Thursday. “It was pretty awesome … He’s a good player and I’ve always cheered for the IceDogs.”
“He probably recognized us from being in the IceDogs crowd before,” Paul added. “It was very nice to see my son be so happy at such a big moment for Canada. And it’s very nice of Akil to do that, too.”
The Goodmans met Thomas along with other junior players once again when they were all flying back home to Canada. Paul said they were pleasantly surprised to see the junior players on the same flight. They spoke with Thomas a little more and thanked him for the gift.
Calvin and his twin brother Daniel both have cerebral palsy. Paul said whenever he sees an opportunity to make Calvin happy, he goes for it. Just like when he attracted Thomas’ attention at the final game, he decided to do the same during Thursday’s game.
Thomas’ trade, just days after Canada’s win, upset many local fans, including Calvin.
“I’m sad. Akil has done so much good for the IceDogs and I wish him all the best in Peterborough,” Calvin said Thursday. “I only met him (a couple of) days ago and I can tell he’s a world-class individual and I’ll miss him.”