Feature Courtesy of The Kingston Whig-Standard
Around one year ago I was at a Kingston Frontenacs hockey game with my nephew and Tyler McDonald, a friend’s seven-year-old boy who has been diagnosed with brain cancer. We were introduced to Michelle Skolnick, who worked for the Frontenacs. Michelle said she had been searching for Tyler for a while, ever since she heard about him, and asked if the team could do a night for Tyler, make him an honorary captain and treat him like a king for the evening.
One week later that happened. Michelle was delighted when she found out that the player who was billeting at her house was Tyler’s favourite, player Nathan Cull. Michelle said Tyler could not have picked a better player, because she knew Nathan’s character. Nathan was a big part of the night when Tyler became honorary team captain.
Over the past year Nathan would come over to Tyler’s house and take him out for a few hours to places like Chuck E. Cheese and over to Nathan’s to play video games and even spent a day at Nathan’s billet’s house this summer swimming in the pool and hanging out, having a great time as the bond between them grew even stronger.
At the Frontenacs games Tyler sits beside the gate that the Frontenacs players use to go on and off the ice. He is always more than happy to high-five all the players as they enter and exit the ice. Of course, he always had a little more to say to Nathan.
Tyler would watch the game, the whole time hoping Nathan would be one of the three stars so that Nathan would pick him up and carry him out onto the ice when Nathan was announced as a star of the game. The smile on Tyler’s face was never any bigger than when he was being carried onto the ice by Nathan.
After most games Tyler would wait patiently for Nathan to come to the autograph area and and he would wait until Nathan was done signing autographs to get a few minutes with his good buddy.
Monday was a very tough day for Tyler and his family, when Tyler’s mother, Danielle, had to break the news that his good friend Nathan had been traded to Sudbury. Needless to say, there were plenty of tears for both Tyler and his mom as she tried to explain things. After I heard about the trade I decided to go to Tyler’s house, knowing that he would be devastated by the news.
While I was there talking to Tyler there was a knock at the door and it was Nathan, who had stopped by knowing that Tyler would not be happy and, being concerned for him, he wanted to do what he could to make Tyler feel better.
Nathan had a lot to do that night, and was leaving for Sudbury at 10 a.m. the next morning, so it showed how much he cared to take time to go comfort his little buddy with so little time to pack.
Nathan explained to Tyler that he would still get his once-every-two-weeks phone call, and when Sudbury was playing in Kingston or Belleville or Oshawa that Tyler would still be able to go to the games and hang with his buddy.
I could tell by Nathan’s voice that it was a tough conversation to have with Tyler. Tyler gave Nathan a nice thank-you card, which Nathan promised would always sit on his dresser for him to see every day.
This story is about a special bond between and boy and an 18-year-old hockey player, and the great character that Nathan has to take being a sick little boy’s favourite hockey player so seriously. He has proven Michelle Skolnick right when she talked about his great character.
If the players that are drafted by Kingston or traded to the team have half of the character that Nathan has showed over the past year to go along with their hockey skills, the team will be in great shape. I always hope with every trade that both the player being traded to Kingston has success and that the player being traded away has success, and in this case I hope Nathan has great success with Sudbury, because he deserves it.
I know most of the players have a pretty good idea of how much the few minutes kids get with them means to the kids, and if they read this I hope it helps remind them just how much they might mean to the young people who admire them.
If you are at a Frontenacs game and see a seven-year-old boy with a No. 11 on his new white Frontenacs jersey and the captain’s “C” on the front, give him a hug – he might need it. Good luck with the hug – he is really shy, and you most likely will be unsuccessful.
Way to go, Nathan, and we wish you great success in the future.
Kevin Murphy, Kingston