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William scores on an out of position Semyon Varlamov. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

It was an ordinary day at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Caps players took part in an optional practice, one of the countless and rather mundane skates they will participate in this season. That was, of course, until William Shannon joined in.

William is five years old and suffers from acute lymphoblastic leukemia. His dream is to play for the Washington Capitals. For a few hours at least that dream was realized thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Mid-Atlantic chapter.

With the players wrapping up their on-ice workout, William took the ice, clad in the sweater of his favorite player, Alex Ovechkin, and Ovi’s signature yellow laces. He has been playing hockey since 2009, but had to stop late that year because of side-effects from his treatment. That didn’t keep him out of the rink for long, however, and in February of last year he was back, feeling so weak he had to use a walker, but nonetheless on the ice.

“This is phenomenal. This is every kid’s wish,” William’s mom Sandy told me. “For William, it’s even bigger. Hockey is what has gotten him through. Our hard days, our tough days, we are watching hockey. On our better days he’s playing hockey … To actually be strong enough, to be confidant enough, to be good enough of a skater to hold his own in a way with these players out here, you know, it’s joyful. It’s hope. It’s saying, ‘you’ve got a lifetime’.”

William’s day at Kettler began with a meeting with the Great Eight, who presented him with one of his signed sticks. William was then taken to the Capitals dressing room where, to his amazement, a personalized locker was set up for him, his skates hung up and all.

Bruce Boudreau broke the news. William would get skate with the Caps.

“His eyes just lit up,” Sandy said. “He was so excited.”

After competing against Jason Chimera, Mike Green and D.J. King for a while, William got a special treat. Taking to the net to face him was none other than Semyon Varlamov. A shootout drill followed. Varlamov remained strong in his crease early on, but after Varly got a little too aggressive William starting racking up the goals to the delight of the crowd at the practice facility, who cheered and banged on the glass.

“He played hard out there,” said Sandy. “He played as hard as he could. We saw the best of William on the ice.”

Green, one of the best defenseman in the sport, agreed.

“He’s a good little player,” he said. “We were giving it to him a little bit. I think I slashed him once. D.J. hit him. We were roughing him up a bit. He handled himself well out there.”

William and his family, who hail from Shepherdstown, West Virginia, will get to join some of the same fans who cheered for them on Friday when they attend the Capitals match-up with the Buffalo Sabres Saturday evening. William, his sister Emily, mother and father Devin will sit in seats purchased by Ovechkin as part of “Ovi’s Crazy Eights.” After the game, William will be presented with Alexander Semin’s game jersey, right off the back of Sasha Minor himself.

“It’s just been an amazing experience and it’s one that he and his entire family will have for the rest of their lives,” said Allyson Butler of Mid-Atlantic Make-A-Wish. “We try to make every wish its own and go beyond the child’s imagination. That’s the beauty in what we do.”

As he left the ice, Capitals General Manager George McPhee quipped that he would like to speak with William, possibly to negotiate a contract with the young forward.

Just before he stepped into the Capitals dressing room, a familiar face greeted Will at the door. “I saw you on TV,” William said to CSN Washington’s Joe Beninati. Joe B. preceded to announce the play-by-play for William’s game-winning goal for the Capitals, something that no one is saying won’t happen again in the future.

“He’s determined he’s going to be a Cap,” Sandy said. “One day he’s going to be a Cap himself. And I wouldn’t put it past him.”

(All photos by Chris Gordon — Click to enlarge)

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Chimera and King react after Green accidentally trips William.

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Varly pretends to break his stick after allowing a soft goal to William. Pro tip: your legs, not back, go on the ice.


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  • K4

    Really, really, REALLY cool.

  • Awww! That is entirely too sweet. 🙂

  • DarkStranger44

    That is so great for William. Sorry to hear of his cancer but so cool to meet with Ovi, practice with the guys, and get the jersey off Semin’s back. Glad the Caps could make it happen for him.

  • Suzanne

    no lie. i teared a little reading this. my friend works for the make-a-wish mid-atlantic chapter and they really work their butts off to make things like this happen. absolutely incredible. great work, chris!

  • gruffudd242

    Hrm. Room seems to be a little dusty, some of it has gotten into my eye.

  • Colin

    Great story Chris. I really wish the little guy all the best and am so happy he got to experience this.

  • JW90

    Varly is a great guy, theyre all great guys

  • Just saw this tweet from D.J. King:

    Just had a good time playing puck with little William from make a wish foundation. Little 5 year old has sick skillless than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

  • Mary

    GO WILL!!!! You are a fighter and everyone is better off for knowing you and your family! We love you, Will!!!! You look awesome on the ice. I have no doubt, Sandy, that someday we will be watching him live!

  • melissa

    I love this team too much. Varly was hilarious on the ice, and William is adorable. I’m so glad I was able to see this happen.

  • Natasha

    Makes me really happy to read such stories.

  • Liz

    Awwwwww! I hope to see William playing for the Caps one day. The whole story is amazing (notwithstanding the slashing and hitting…ha). I especially love the pics of him and Varly. Nice job, Chris.

  • Avtopilot

    that’s a spirit.
    I’m sure, this is a great morale boost for the team too…

    and many thanks too the people who make it happen.

  • Sam

    I may not be the best cameraman but I took video of this yesterday while at Kettler:

  • Liz B.

    This just melts my heart. What an incredibly wonderful thing for the Caps to do for this little boy. Makes me proud to be a Caps fan. 🙂 All the best for little William and his family. He looks like quite the hockey player!

  • Mac

    This is wonderful. The guys are so great for doing things like this. I am so glad that the Caps and the Make a Wish foundation could make this happen. I have no doubt that we will be seeing little Will on the ice for the Caps in the future!! 🙂

  • Thanks for this guys. How can you not tear up reading this? Mitey William dekes Russian Machine Varly!

  • Sarah

    We talked with William’s aunt and uncle, and they couldn’t say enough good things about the organization. William goes to get chemo, then throws up, and goes to play hockey the same day. He has a port in his chest for the meds, and wants to play goalie, but his parents won’t let him till it’s removed. His main wish was to shoot on a goalie. They ran into Bruce at Front Page afterwards, who not only talked to him when he came in, but stopped by their table before leaving. William drew him a picture. It was tough not to cry!

    Varly was so sweet with him, and the boys had huge smiles on their faces the whole time out there with him. Props to the org and their big hearts.

  • Jeremy

    Really makes you stop and think about all we have in life. What a great kid, a great family, a tough situation. Fantastic work by Make-a-Wish Mid Atlantic, the Capitals, and RMNB. Thank you for this.

  • Deb and Rich Voso

    Will: we are so happy for you. You are awesome. What a great team.
    Beach house is ready for Will and Emily (mom and dad too)

  • BobbyG

    Oh wow. Great story and awesome pics Chris. I’m so happy William got to play as a Cap and meet with his favorite player Ovie. I have an especially personal reason to cheer William on and wish all the best for him. He is an adorable little boy and a gritty tough one too. I pray for him to continue to have the strength and courage to continue his battle and win it. Kudos to all the Caps for making William’s wish happen.

    Now please excuse me while I wipe away some tears.

  • Greg

    This is wonderful! The picture of him with Varly patting his head is adorable. Maybe when Ovie is wrapping up his career here William can step into his yellow laced skates and the team won’t miss a beat!

  • tfirey

    Caps = menschen

  • Gailmarie Haller

    I can barely see as I write this, through all my tears. I pray for William and his family, to remain strong through this hardship and illness. Sending many good wishes and LOTS of prayers your way!!!

    LOVE the fact the Caps were treating William as one of their own!!! The pictures are just SUPER. Everyone looks to be enjoying themselves. I can only wish for a miracle, that will allow William to recover, so that someday, we can all watch him score many goals, as one of the Caps. He deserves that, and so much more.

    God bless all involved. You have added so much joy to William’s life. He will never forget this. Best of all, he has more to look forward to!!!

  • Jem

    Wonderful sweet story. The Caps guys are the best! And wow, William is an excellent skater!

  • Devin Shannon

    Thanks to the Caps for making my son’s wish come true! What class acts we have on our hockey team!

  • Susan

    This is one of the many reasons I love those guys in red. Hockey players have such big hearts. I applaud Mike Green, Jason Chimera, DJ King and Semyon Varlamov as well as the Caps organization.

  • Pingback: Video: William From the Make A Wish Foundation Scores on Semyon Varlamov During Practice()

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  • Ian

    From all of us at RMNB, we wanted to say thank you to Ted Leonsis for this blog post linking to us.


  • Joe

    Make-a-Wish Foundation — now get the NHL to modify the draft rules just a bit. Give the Caps an extra draft choice so they can draft a five-year-old.

  • Barb Spencers

    Very touching. Thanks Capitals for making a special boy’s dream come true! Thanks for sharing the story.

  • DarkStranger44

    And now more highlights for William. During the “Shirt off the Back” ceremony, after Semin gave William his jersey (and autographed it), he then lifted William up in the air for all the fans to see. (There are pictures on websites.)


  • Nancy McManus

    This story brought me to tears. I know personally how much this experience with the CAPS meant to Will and his family! Way to go, Will and the CAPS of course!

  • Ian

    Just saw this:

    5 year old William was awesome today on the ice with us at practice. Sick dangles.less than a minute ago via Twittelator

  • Brian

    My favorite part is in a video left by an above commenter. After little William gets a breakaway attempt he HUSTLES back to the blue line for another try. Further proof of the young man’s obviously excellent attitude. I love everything about this.

  • Beth Smith

    What an amazing story and an amazing young man. Super hockey player, too!!

  • Pingback: William’s Dad Shares Their Experience of Day Two of Will’s Wish()