It's not every day that you meet an NHL star, let alone be able to play alongside them.
But that's the opportunity that has arisen for local youth hockey player Parker Sisco.
The nine-year-old was one of six youngsters from across Northwestern Ontario selected to play on Team Staal 2018 in the Fountain Tire Summer Classic, which is a road hockey game that will take place in conjunction with the Staal Foundation Open presented by Tbaytel on July 9 at the Whitewater Golf Course.
For the third-straight year, kids across Northwestern Ontario stepped forward to raise money for the Northern Cancer Fund for a chance to play on Team Staal.
The top three fundraisers in the contest were guaranteed a spot on the squad.
Sisco finished fourth out of all the fundraisers, gathering a total of $3,003, but still was selected to play in the game as his name was drawn first during a random draw thanks to ballots earned throughout the contest.
“I went door-to-door for the donations but some people donated online,” explained Sisco, who his going into his second year of Atom hockey this fall and turns 10 in November.
“I asked if they wanted to fundraise and most people answered with 'yes,'” he noted.
“That was very generous of them and not a lot of people said 'no.'”
In total, $35,817 was raised for the Northern Cancer Fund, bringing the total raised in the event's three-year history to $112,574.
The announcement of the winners took place last Monday at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, but Sisco said he found out about being selected to Team Staal when he was at school.
“My mom told me about it when the announcement was playing [online] so my class watched it,” he recalled.
“We couldn't find the right stream, and then my French teacher was looking at it and she said, 'Parker, Parker! You won!' and the whole class was excited, so that was pretty cool,” he added.
Each Team Staal player will play in the road hockey game of a lifetime in the Fountain Tire Summer Classic as part of the opening day activities of the Staal Foundation Open.
Fans are invited to come out and cheer on the Team Staal players.
The game will feature the Staals (Jordan, Eric, and Marc), along with other past and present NHL'ers as well as a roster of celebrities, Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada players, and TSN personalities.
What is Sisco looking most forward to about all of the Fountain Tire Summer Classic festivities?
“I don't usually go other places very often so it'll be fun to go for a little trip,” he enthused.
“Then I also get to play with some cool NHL hockey players and meet other kids,” he added.
“I can make new friends, play one of my favourite sports, and meet some other cool people from the NHL.”
Sisco also noted he has been playing road hockey with friends and his dad in order to be prepared when come game time.
A sixth and final spot will be given away to be part of Team Staal 2018 by Fountain Tire this Sunday (June 24) starting at 1 p.m.
Kids aged seven-12 will participate in a scavenger hunt for the chance at a spot.
“Groups of four-six kids will work as a team in a scavenger hunt throughout our building and property with the supervision and aid of a Fountain Tire team rep,” explained Jeff Hunter, who is the assistant manager for Fountain Tire.
“This will include riddles, puzzles, and problem-solving,” he noted.
“Parents are welcome to walk along but are asked to not provide any assistance—the Fountain Tire team rep can supply clues,” Hunter stressed.
“At the conclusion of the hunt, the winning team will be entered into a game of chance to see which member will win the final spot.”
Entries are restricted to the first 30 kids who register.
To secure your spot, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and include your child's name, age, and contact information for parent/guardian.
“Once again the kids of Thunder Bay and surrounding communities across Northwestern Ontario have done an incredible job of fundraising in the 2018 Team Staal Fundraising Contest,” Jordan Staal said on behalf of the Staal Family Foundation.
"Our family is so proud of these kids and of what they've accomplished—over $35,000, wow!
“Our Foundation is about supporting families with children fighting cancer,” Staal added.
“The dollars raised by these kids will go a long way in supporting this great cause,” he stressed.
"We thank everyone who entered this year's contest and we look forward to hosting them at this year's Fountain Tire Summer Classic in July.
“It is definitely a highlight of the Staal Foundation Open,” he enthused.
Tickets now are available for the Staal Foundation Open.
Daily tickets cost $10 (Monday's admission includes viewing of the Fountain Tire Summer Classic) while weekly passes are $30.
Kids 14 and under are free.
You can find more info online at staalopen.ca