San Jose Sharks #20 Sam Tageson

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I’ve been thinking about this story since I first heard about it back in March.  I didn’t have a blog then, so I kept my feelings confined to 140 characters.  But a tweet yesterday reminded me of it, and I realised that there are probably hockey fans in the UK who haven’t heard about Sam and his brief but meaningful contract with the Sharks.

Sam Tageson is an 18-year old who has hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which is a life-threatening condition.  Through the amazing power of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he was offered the chance to spend the day with the San Jose Sharks, a team he’d supported all his life.

It wouldn’t surprise anyone to know that the Sharks organization treated him fantastically – meeting the players, eating meals with them, having some ice time with them, talking to the media – but that wasn’t enough for the Sharks.

Sam signed an official one day contract with the team, effectively making him a full member of the Sharks for that day.  He then practised with them, even scoring in a 1-on-1 against goalie Alex Stalock.  But at game time, fully dressed in his own #20 kit, Sam joined the team, skating through the iconic shark head onto the ice.

For their game against the Florida Panthers , Sam was kitted up and skated out onto the ice with the team.  He stood on the ice with them for the singing of the National Anthem, and when he was shown on the scoreboard, there was a standing ovation from every person in the building.

Despite all that, it still wasn’t the end.  Top Deck, who produce the official NHL trading cards, created a special Rookie card – usually saved for first-year NHL players – for Sam. And Reebok have created a Sharks player tee with Sam’s #20 on it, which is for sale, with all proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

If you’re in the San Jose area today head on over to Stevens Creek Sports Cards, where Sam will be signing some of the cards and will be collecting donations for Make-A-Wish.

This is a perfect example of what a difference a professional sports team can make. Granting Sam’s wish won’t have cost them much, but on top of helping Sam to smile, they are also continuing to raise both funds and awareness for the charity.

I know other teams and groups are doing similar things, and I’m in awe of all of them, but the Sharks and Sam Tageson have made such a huge impression on me that I felt the need to talk about it here.

For more information, visit the Sharks website or Make-A-Wish.

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