Sam Tageson is a hockey player, even if it’s against the advice of his doctors.
The 17 year old was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. At some point, he'll likely need a heart transplant. His mother Lisa Mills told the Mercury News that his doctors told him he “would never ride a bicycle, never do any of that.” Instead, he rides skateboards and plays hockey. “They've given up telling him no,” she said.
But Tageson’s heart condition is, in the end, potentially life threatening. So the Make-A-Wish Foundation worked with the San Jose Sharks Foundation to make his dream come true on Tuesday: Suiting up with the Sharks for a full day as an NHL player.
That included signing a one-day contract with the Sharks, practicing with the team and hanging with the players.
That’s standard Make-A-Wish stuff when it comes to the NHL. Where Tageson’s day with the Sharks becomes extraordinary was before their game against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night. Tageson became the first non-player in the history of the franchise to skate out through the massive smoking Shark head for pregame warmups, and stood with the team during the national anthem.
It was an emotional day, and Tageson couldn’t contain those emotions when introduced to the crowd during the game.
In a roundabout way, Tageson helped the Sharks nearly rally to tie the game. In the third period, trailing by a goal, the Jumbotron showed Tageson inside the arena. The crowd cheered loudly. The Sharks then scored off the next faceoff to cut the Panthers’ lead to 3-2.
In the end, they came up short. As defenseman Jason Demers tweeted: “Disappointing to lose tonight really wanted that one for Sam Tageson... what a great kid and makes you appreciate what you have!”
And he, no doubt, has a deeper than ever appreciation for his favorite team.