A father-son duo from Tompkins had an unforgettable day at the Saddledome last month when the young southwest resident met one of his heroes.
Manni Brost's first NHL experience was to see his favourite team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, with his father Leif Brost. Nearing the end of the night, the young fan waited behind the team's bench to see each player leave the ice.
The night took what ended up being a bittersweet turn when Manni, donned in team gear and armed with a sign, caught the attention of none other than goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. The generous goalie handed over his stick to the ten-year-old fan, creating a moment Manni would cherish forever.
“It was pretty good—I didn't really know what was going on in the moment,” Manni said. “I asked him [if the stick was for me]. He’s known for having big eyes, and he looked me right in the eyes and nodded his head.”
However, joy turned to disappointment when an unfortunate incident occurred, and Manni lost the prized stick to another adult in the crowd.
“The guy might have thought it was up for grabs,” he said. “It was unfortunate that it happened.”
Undeterred, Manni and Leif returned home to Tompkins from Calgary, focusing on the positive aspects of the experience; a memorable encounter with an idol and Manni's inaugural NHL game.
Enter Manni's older brother, Kolt, who decided to take matters into his own hands. He shared Manni's story with Swift Current Online, striking a chord with the local program director.
Driven by his own passion for sports fandom, David Zammit reached out to the Tampa Bay Lightning through various channels, eventually receiving a response from the team's manager of communications.
“I put myself in Manny's shoes 20 years ago,” Zammit added. “I take sports extremely seriously, especially my fandom towards teams, and I could only imagine if one of my idols handed me a stick when I was 10 years old, and that scenario played out.”
The Lightning were eager to make amends, with Vasilevskiy expressing his desire to send Manni a replacement stick as he remembered the exact interaction with his fan.
Last week, Manni received a special package from Florida, containing a signed stick, and a personal letter, from the night after he met Vasilevskiy when the team won their game against St. Louis.
The elation in Manni's voice was palpable as he described the surreal feeling of opening the gift.
“It took a while to kind of sink in,” he said. “It honestly still kind of feels like I don't really have a stick!”
The lost treasure was restored, thanks to the collective efforts of family, fans, and the Tampa Bay Lightning organization.