My daughter has a friend whose brother is a juvenile cancer survivor. Lappy is well known in our community for his work on behalf of children with serious illnesses, and that’s how her family came to know him. They’ve kept in touch since he left for Philadelphia, and asked if we’d like to tag along when they went to meet him before the Flyers’ morning skate at the Pepsi Center. Thanks to my incredibly supportive wife — who volunteered to pick up my father at the airport — I was able to take them up on their very generous offer.
A little background is in order: I came late to the game of hockey. I never watched a game until I was an adult with a family of my own. Nevertheless, the game quickly became my passion and I quickly became a fan of the Avalanche, the NHL and hockey players in general. When I started playing hockey I gained a new level of understanding of the game and a greater appreciation for the talent, skill and hard work required to play in the NHL. There have been a few players that stood out as my favorites along the way. Some are obvious choices like Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Ray Bourque and Patrick Roy. More so I’ve always admired players who weren’t considered the brightest stars but accomplished a great deal through sheer effort and determination: Adam Deadmarsh, Steve Konowalchuk, Dan Hinote and Adam Foote to name a few.
But, Ian Laperriere is the only player I’ve ever considered to be a hockey hero. I’ve always loved to watch him play the game. I know I’ll never approach that level of hockey skill, as anyone who’s seen me skate will attest. Lappy models the best qualities in a hockey player: game sense, hard work, and unquestioned loyalty to his teammates. He also displays his pure joy at being able to play the greatest game ever invented. Those are all things I can emulate. But it’s his commitment to making better the lives of others that marks him as special.
This morning I witnessed this professional taking time away from his preparations to reconnect with a couple of children and their families. It was obvious that he wasn’t doing community service, he truly felt that these children were special. He also took time to chat with the siblings and parents – even a couple of “friends of friends” like my daughter and myself. I feel honored beyond words that he was able to sign a couple of autographs for us and take a picture with us.
I don’t use the word “hero” lightly. Ian Laperriere has earned the honor by the way he lives his life, and I feel honored to have been given a first-hand glimpse. It was exactly what I expected to see. I’m glad to know my heroes are worthy.