History was made in San Jose Tuesday night.
Sam Tageson, a 17-year-old with a life-threatening heart condition, became the first non-active NHLer to emerge from the giant shark head prior to the team’s pre-game skate at SAP Center.
After signing a one-day contract with the west coast club, Tageson stood next to San Jose’s starters as they took in the national anthem prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Florida Panthers.
When he was introduced to the 17,562 in attendance, Tageson, who suffers from hypoplastic left heart syndrome, broke down crying amid a standing ovation.
“We’re happy to have him as part of our team,” Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said. “He participated in the whole day and the events. The Make a Wish Foundation does tremendous things for people that need it. We’re happy to participate. We’re glad we can be part of his day.”
Tageson was born with two heart chambers instead of four.
The condition is supposed to be debilitating, his mother told the San Jose Mercury News, but her son refuses to let the condition take away his passion.
"They said he would be the child that would never ride a bicycle, never do any of that,” said Tageson’s mom, Lisa Mills. “He rides a skateboard. He plays hockey. The doctors all through the years have said give him golf clubs, take the hockey stick away. We tried. It doesn't work."
He’ll need a heart transplant at some point in the future.
For now, though, he’s glowing following a night he’ll remember forever.
“It’s really awesome,” Tageson told reporters. “I like it a lot. A once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
He even got a playful jab from a wily veteran.
“Jumbo (Joe Thornton) told me to scoot over a little bit (on the bench),” he said with a smile.
Like many who followed this story, it left Tageson a bit speechless.