This Hockey Star Surprised A Bereaved Child – And The Emotional Footage Is Tearjerking

Image: YouTube/NHL

When 11-year-old Anderson Whitehead’s mother passed away in November 2018, she left behind a sweet promise to her hockey-loving son. NHL star Carey Price then heard this story, and the legend made sure that the parent’s wish finally became fulfilled. Yet on the day in question, the overwhelmed youngster ended up in floods of tears.

Image: Anderson Whitehead via Global News

So what had happened? Well, this is Anderson Whitehead. Hailing from Brantford, Ontario, the 11-year-old leads a life very much akin to other boys his age. Like most kids from the Great White North, you see, the youngster is a massive fan of hockey. And he can be regularly seen waving the colors of his favorite team: the Montreal Canadiens.

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Of the entire team, however, there’s one player that this hockey fan loves the most. Yes, the Canadien’s goalkeeper Carey Price – who has been blocking pucks for the team since 2007 – is something of a hero for Whitehead. The youngster’s bedroom walls are, in fact, decorated almost exclusively with posters of Price and his team’s colors.

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And it’s certainly easy to see why young Whitehead reveres his idol so much. In the years that Price has been in the NHL, after all, the athlete has garnered admiration from fans and players alike. To wit, Price was voted the league’s best-working goalkeeper by other professional players in a 2019 NHLPA Player Poll.

Image: Tammy Whitehead via NHL

But Whitehead’s love for Price apparently goes further than most other followers of the game. So much so, in fact, that the youngster’s mom, Laura McKay, made it her mission to bring her son face to face with his hero. She consequently spent hours of her time applying to competitions that would allow him to meet the goalie.

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As the little boy’s father, Kevin Whitehead, told iHeartRadio in March 2019, McKay’s largest concern was making sure that her son had the experience of a lifetime. “She was the kind of woman [who] would give everything to everybody else before she would ever take,” he recalled. Despite her best efforts, though, McKay was never able to contact the NHL star.

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To make matters worse, McKay was also struggling with devastating news. In January 2018, you see, the mom discovered that she was suffering from breast cancer ‒ an illness that had come back after years in remission. Yet this apparently made her more determined to use whatever time she had left to make her son’s dream a reality.

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Sadly, though, McKay wouldn’t live to see her son’s wish come true. After ten months spent battling the disease, the devoted mother finally succumbed to her illness in November 2018. The mom-of-one passed away at the tragically young age of 45, leaving her family and friends utterly distraught.

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Losing a parent at any age can be a torturous ordeal, of course. Yet for Whitehead in particular the pain was difficult to process. For days after McKay’s passing, in fact, the young boy tried desperately to come to terms with his bereavement. On top of that, too, the youngster had to understand that meeting Price was becoming a less realistic possibility.

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So, during a heart-to-heart with the young man, his father delicately outlined the realities of living without a mother. But when the subject of meeting Price came up, Kevin decided that this was one thing his son wasn’t going to live without. “‘You know bud, your dreams, let’s see if we can make them come true,’” Kevin recalled telling his son.

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Just as McKay had in the last year of her life, then, Whitehead’s father began frantically trying to contact Price. Attempting to get in touch with any V.I.P. is easier said than done, though. But Kevin had an advantage: the family had a connection that would bring his son closer to his goal.

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As luck would have it, Whitehead’s uncle just happens to know a sports therapist who had previously worked with the Toronto Maple Leafs. So the youngster’s father approached the family member, who’d met the medical professional after having problems with his shoulder. And in turn, Whitehead’s uncle asked his pal if he knew anyone from the Canadiens. And as it turned out, the man did.

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Thanks to Whitehead’s brother, the family then made contact with the Canadien’s chief athletic therapist, Graham Rynbend. And after hearing Whitehead’s story, Rynbend agreed to do whatever he could to fulfill McKay’s promise. In fact, the therapist invited Whitehead’s family to watch the team practice prior to an important game against the Maple Leafs.

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That’s not all that Rynbend had planned for Whitehead’s upcoming visit, though. Prior to the practice session in question, you see, the athletic therapist approached Price and informed him about his young fan’s situation. The goalie, in turn, made sure that his meeting with the kid would be something special indeed.

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Image: YouTube/Montreal Gazette

On the day of the practise session, then, Whitehead went with his father, his uncle and his aunt Tammy to the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. There, they got to enjoy watching their favorite team in full flight getting ready for the evening’s game. And as the practice ended, the family waited eagerly for the young man to meet his hero.

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According to Whitehead’s father, the family didn’t expect anything more than a simple high-five from the boy’s idol. But Price – who already knew of McKay’s persistent attempts to put him in touch with her son – had something more in mind. Leaving the rink, the goalkeeper approached the 11-year-old, and the two began to talk.

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Image: Facebook/Tammy Whitehead

Knowing how much the moment would mean to her nephew, Whitehead’s aunt took out her phone and began to film. However, being face to face with his idol was something the youngster wasn’t ready to handle, and he began to sob uncontrollably. And it was then that Price decided to do something truly remarkable.

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Image: Facebook/Tammy Whitehead

As Whitehead sat there weeping, Price removed his goalie gloves and face-obscuring mask. Then he reached into the bleachers where his fan was perched and gave him a long and comforting hug. With the tears still flowing down Whitehead’s face, the player reassured him. “Things will get better, bud,” he said.

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Image: Facebook/Tammy Whitehead

Certainly no one in the Whitehead family expected the sportsman to make such a touching gesture. “There are no words to describe it,” the boy’s father told the Montreal Gazette in March 2019. “To watch his dream come true… I thought he might just get a high-five or something from Price. But for him to get embraced like that was absolutely incredible.”

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Image: Kevin Whitehead via CBC News

It wasn’t just Whitehead who couldn’t contain the tears, though. “Everyone was bawling,” his aunt added. “My husband was bawling, my 14-year-old was bawling. Everyone was crying. And to get that hug was just… Oh, it just gives me chills that he got that hug. It was so amazing.”

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After the pair’s hug was over, Price then suggested signing his young fan’s jersey – an offer Whitehead warmly accepted. The goalie also went on to give his follower not one, but two hockey sticks, which he dutifully signed as well. Clearly overcome with emotion, the youngster could only get out a grateful thank you between sobs.

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Image: via CTV News Toronto

Of course, the moment proved just as special as Whitehead had hoped it would be. “It was very cool,” the Canadiens fan told the Montreal Gazette. “It’s the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I always hoped it was going to happen, my mom always said it could happen.” And yet the experience meant so much more to the youngster than words could ever describe.

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According to the boy’s father, that hug even helped Whitehead deal with the grief after his mother’s death. “Anderson said everything in his body just left him,” his pop revealed. “The weight and the anger he’s been carrying around, all that stuff. There are no words to say thank you [to Price]. He’s just an incredible guy.”

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Image: Facebook/Tammy Whitehead

So, thanks to the efforts of his father, uncle and, of course, Price, Whitehead had finally seen his dream come true. And yet the 11-year-old’s journey was far from over. Following the pair’s meeting, in fact, the Canadiens fan’s aunt – who had filmed the entire encounter – asked the youngster if he had any objections to her sharing the video online.

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Image: Facebook/Tammy Whitehead

“I just wanted to share it, really, with my friends and family,” Whitehead’s aunt explained to the Montreal Gazette. Naturally, the youngster obliged, seemingly under the impression that no one else would see it. “Anderson made a joke when I asked him if I could post the video,” she continued. “He said, ‘Yeah, maybe it will go viral.’”

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But that’s exactly what happened. After Whitehead’s aunt posted the clip to Facebook, it quickly spread through the hockey community. And within days, the NHL’s official Twitter page had shared the video. Price’s act of pure kindness also led Canadiens fans and rivals alike to come together in mutual respect.

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“I am a diehard Bruins fan and hate the HABS,” commented Twitter user Darrin Feehan. “But… I don’t care who you cheer for, that right there is class.” Other supporters of rival teams even admitted that Price’s move prompted them to buy a copy of the goalie’s jersey. “Some things are bigger than the game,” wrote follower Jeff Klein.

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For Whitehead’s family, seeing the video go viral was the cherry on top of this incredibly special moment. “It was very emotional and moving for us as a family to see Anderson have this experience,” Whitehead’s aunt told the Montreal Gazette. “Having the video explode has just been unbelievable, and Anderson is absolutely over the moon. He’s doing the happy dance all the time.”

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And during the months following Whitehead’s meeting with Price, the youngster was doing his part to commemorate his mom’s memory. On May 5, 2019, for example, the 11-year-old took part in a charity hike organized by the Stedman Community Hospice where McKay had spent the end of her life. And all in all, the hockey fan raised $5,800 for the charity and earned a fundraising prize in the process.

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It just so happens that in early summer 2019, too, hockey fans voted Whitehead and Price’s exchange as the “Feel Good Moment” of the season. The higher-ups in the NHL then seemingly decided that they also wanted to do something for people like McKay. And the NHL’s subsequent award show became the perfect place for the league to make a contribution to a good cause.

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Leaving Brantford behind, Whitehead then traveled all the way to Las Vegas to personally receive the award at the June 19 ceremony. There, he watched as announcer Camille Kostek recounted his story to an audience of thousands. And after playing his video, the host invited the youngster to the stage where she had a surprise waiting for him.

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As Whitehead made his way to the front of the room, in fact, Kostek revealed that a donation had been made in honor of McKay and people like her. Supplied by healthcare providers Cigna, the $100,000 contribution had been sent to the charity Hockey Fights Cancer. The donation also included a dollar for every save made during both hockey seasons.

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From the stage, Whitehead gave Kostek a big hug of appreciation. It was then that the announcer revealed she had one more surprise for him. “One of your buddies could not be here, so he wanted to send you this message,” the host explained before turning the 11-year-old’s attention to a video screen behind them.

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On the display emerged Price wearing a sharp suit and standing in front of a black background. From the stage, it looked as if he was appearing in a video recorded earlier in the day. And as the goalie looked directly into camera, he recited a message to Whitehead that he clearly would’ve wanted to give in person.

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“Hey, Anderson, hope you’re enjoying Vegas,” the goalie began. “I just wanted to say that your mother was a special person and sharing that moment with you was something that I’ll always remember for the rest of my life. It was very special to me.” But suddenly, something stopped the athlete in his tracks.

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“Hold up, hold up, hold up,” Price said as he waved his hand in front of the camera. Rather than going for another take, however, the goalie instead walked off-screen. “Where’s he going?” Kostek asked as a puzzled Whitehead scanned the room. “He didn’t finish his message.”

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Soon enough, however, a familiar face emerged from the back of the stage. Dressed in the same suit from his not-so prerecorded message and carrying a Canadiens jersey was Price in the flesh. And as the audience erupted into cheers, a stunned Whitehead began to well up as he prepared to meet his hero once again.

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Price approached Whitehead and hugged him just as he had all those months ago. “Everything’s all right, bud,” the goalie reassured the 11-year-old as the audience got out of their seats for a standing ovation. “How about a round of applause for the young man here?” he asked the rapturous crowd.

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Once the applause subsided, Price turned to Whitehead. “So I have two things for you,” he stated. “One is this jersey. And the second is a question. Do you want to go to the all-star game next year?” The delighted youngster then replied, “Yes!” Then even more cheers erupted from the audience. “Well, hopefully I’ll see you there next year, okay buddy?” the athlete said before hugging him a final time.

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With the all-star game set to commence in January 2020, Whitehead has half a year to look forward to next meeting Price. Without a doubt, though, it’s more than the youth and his family could have ever dreamed of. We can’t think of any more moving way to honor McKay’s memory, either. As the young man told iHeartRadio, “She would have been so happy for me.”

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