Alexander Semin picks up William after giving him his game jersey. (Photo credit: Shannon family)
Editor’s Note: By now, you’ve probably heard of William Shannon. He is five years old, has acute lymphoblastic leukemia and is everyone’s favorite little Capital. Thanks to the make a Wish-A-Wish foundation and the Caps, William had his dream realized and took the ice with Mike Green, Jason Chimera, D.J. King and Semyon Varlamov on Friday.
“This weekend was an incredible event!,” William’s father Devin Shannon said in an email. “William’s wish was to practice with the Capitals and he did! I can’t tell you how much everyone has done for us and what this weekend has meant for us.”
After practicing with the Caps, William’s journey continued on Saturday when he and his family took in Washington’s matchup with the Buffalo Sabres before riding the on the Zamboni and receiving the jersey off the back of Alexander Semin after the game. I’ll let Devin take it from here:
Day two was just as amazing as day one! Allyson Butler from Make-A-Wish met us in the hotel lobby and took us out to wait for our “ride” to the game! Within minutes a very long black stretch limo appeared before us! Bill, our driver, was very nice. William and Emily quickly climbed in and all we heard for a few minutes was: “Cool!” “This is so sweet!” Then we had chatty little ones for the short ride over to the Verizon Center! It is amazing how just the little things make such a huge impression! How neat it was for the kids to get out of the limo right in front of the Verizon Center with so many fans around wondering who the V.I.P. was!
Allyson led us to our seats which were in Ovi’s Crazy Eights section! Before game time, we got to go down to the ice level to watch warmups. However, it wasn’t just any warmup because we got to watch it from the penalty box! Both kids spent a few minutes with Wes Johnson, the public address announcer!
While we were hanging in the penalty box, one fan came knocking on the glass and congratulated William on the goals he scored on Semyon Varlamov! How thrilling it was to be with a celebrity! Then we headed up to our seats for the game! As soon as I returned from our first period run for food, we were whisked away to the press box. Kurt from Capitals PR took us around and showed us the press box with Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin. They greeted us all with smiles on their faces! William responded with a “I saw you on TV!”. They gave William a pair of headphones so that he could listen in to what they were hearing.
As soon as the first period ended, Craig instructed William in how they use the telestrator to demonstrate plays by drawing circles, arrows, etc. He was very chatty with William about his experiences with the Caps. Joe jumped in a bit to compliment William on his hockey skills from the day before. Craig didn’t leave Emily out and gave her some of the same attention and instruction that he gave William! Top-notch guys!! We got an added bonus when we were all invited into the replay booth. The head replay guy, John Robinson, shared how he had just made a donation to friends of his participating in a Make-A-Wish Foundation fundraiser bike ride! He asked permission to include William on his prayer list, which so far contains the names of survivors! He was so sweet and so touched by my little guy!
We headed back to our seats to watch a little more of the game, but that was short-lived! William had to make his debut on the big screen riding on the Olympia (in our world, the Zamboni)! Another dream come true for him! He did not hesitate when picked up to climb in! He got his seat belt on and was ready to go! The beaming smile was just amazing! The video of William on the Zamboni went up on the jumbotron to a huge applause from the fans! He smiled and waved in reply! He looked so little up there, but so happy and confident! He chatted a little with Jamey the driver, but was mostly just checking everything out! Emily, Sandy and I got to watch him from behind the doors where the Zamboni comes on and off the ice.
We made it back to our seats for just a few more minutes. As it was Fan Appreciation Day, every fan received a Nicklas Backstrom bobblehead (and one fan randomly gave his to William as he was passing us before the game even began)! There was a contest conducted for fans to win a game-worn autographed jersey. So they came to get Sandy and William and head back down to the ice level to prepare to line up to receive his jersey. Sandy and William got to watch most of the third period on T.V. from near the Coaches Club lounge downstairs. Hanging out there they saw several goals, but had to go line up with the Caps being down by a goal. They went off to the hallway to await being brought out onto the ice. They received news of the goal to tie it up and then the winning goal by Alex Ovechkin!
There was another little boy, Luke, in the line who was getting Slapshot’s jersey. Luke was initially taken aback about which jersey William was getting (it was a surprise for all the winners except William), as it was Luke’s favorite player, but he handled it like a champ and was excited for William and for himself. Luke and William are only a few months apart in age and they hit it off big! How great it was for William to meet another kid who shares the same passion for hockey that he does! They chatted about players, goals and were just goofy together! Two peas in a pod they were! The line of winners filed out onto the carpet over the ice. Each winner had to pull a paper out of their envelope which had a player’s number on it. That player then came over to meet the winner of the jersey and to sign the jersey. William and Luke were the last two. They were so patient and so composed waiting their turn! All players had given away their jerseys except one: Alexander Semin! Semin skated over and pulled off his jersey to give to William. He signed it and then as he handed it over and went to pose for a photo-op, he hoisted William up to his shoulder to a huge applause from the fans and from the players! Just amazing! Both William and Semin were beaming!
On their final trip back to our seats, Sandy said William was met with applause and gestures of awe as they walked along the corridor: “There’s that kid!” “Way to go William!” “I saw you on T.V.!” “You skated great!” I think he might have been a bit overwhelmed, but certainly so happy! I can’t wait to see the recording of the game. I heard that Joe and Craig mentioned William’s practice Friday and that we had visited them in the booth. I am sure I am leaving out so much! It was just an amazing night! I cannot get over the generosity of this organization and the special place they held in their hearts for our little boy! The stories being written and the tweets posted tell me how touched the players, bloggers and media were with his story. I don’t think that his story medically is much different from many other children, but I know that his passion and love for hockey and the Capitals makes him stand out! When we were talking earlier that day about the game, the kids predicted that the Caps would score three or four goals (they scored five). William said Ovi was going to get at least three points! And he was right on! Two assists and the final overtime goal!!!
Bill met us with our beautiful stretch limo and took us back to the hotel! William loved his limo ride and was excited that his feet could touch the ground! When asked his favorite part of tonight, he responded that it was meeting Semin! All in all, I don’t think Make-A-Wish and the Capitals could have made the trip any better! When Sandy and William were walking back to our seats, William turned and told Sandy, “Mom, my wish really did come true!”
There are so many people that played such a huge part in William’s wish! Bruce Boudreau, George McPhee, Bob Woods, Scott Hannan, Matt Bradley, Mike Green, D.J. King, Semyon Varlamov, Jason Chimera, Alexander Semin, Joe Beninati, Craig Laughlin, John Robinson, Ted Leonsis, Liz and Nadia (our Capitals escorts), Allyson and Jessica from Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic, Pam Haymond from the Make-A-Wish Northern WV chapter, Laura our Red Rocker, Wes the PA announcer, Bill the limo driver, Jamey the Zamboni driver, Jorge from Front Page Arlington, Chris Gordon, the crews from WUSA 9 and CSN, all of the bloggers, the fans who cheered William on and so many more! It truly was a magical night!
(All photos courtesy Shannon family — Click to enlarge)
Alex Ovechkin signs his stick for William on Friday.
William and his sister Emily take in practice.
William poses for a photo with Caps Head Coach Bruce Boudreau.
William’s very own stall in the Capitals locker room.
“Authorized Personnel Only”
William meets Scott Hannan.
William talks to Joe B outside the locker room.
Capitals General Manager Geogre McPhee with William.
William in Capitals locker room with Jay Beagle (left) and Matt Bradley (center).
The Shannon family poses for a photo at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
Jorge from Front Page Arlington talks with William.
John Carlson poses for a photo with William and Emily.
The limo arrives in front of the hotel.
William and Emily in their V.I.P. ride.
Devin, Emily, Sandra, William and their driver Bill.
William with his Nicklas Backstrom bobblehead.
William and Emily await warmups from the penalty box.
William and Wes Johnson pose for a photo.
William takes in warmups.
William cheers on the boys in red.
William meets CSN Washington color man Craig Laughlin.
Joe B. puts headphones on William.
Locker shows William how to work to the telestrator.
“Hold it here!”
William and Emily pose with the crew from the NHL replay booth.
Hat Trick, William, Slapshot and Emily pose for a photo.
William rides the Zamboni.
William and Luke share a laugh.
Hat Trick shakes William’s hand.
Sasha Minor signs his game jersey for William.
William, Devin and Emily pose for a photo with Semin’s sweater.