As part of Monday night’s “Hockey Fights Cancer” initiative, 14-year-old West Deptford High School freshman Zach Steward was invited into the Flyers locker room as an honorary coach.
While the treatment for the leukemia he is batting may have taken his hair, it has not diminished his spirit. In fact, it was hard to tell who got more out of the evening.
“You talk about bringing energy and seeing life the right way,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said after the Flyers beat Vancouver, 2-1. “The kid came in, read the starting lineup. And you could feel the excitement.”
Steward and some family members were at Flyers practice in Voorhees on Friday where he got to meet his favorite player, Travis Konecny. Steward was wearing a Konecny commemorative purple jersey when he addressed the team and later received a surprise from the Flyers’ fourth-year emerging star.
It was a full evening for Steward, who begins heavy chemotherapy on Wednesday, so his sister Sam shared a couple of the highlights.
“At practice,” Sam said, “Zach gave TK a bracelet that says ‘Z-Man #2 StrongerThanStrong Now.’ TK took off his glove to show Zach he had it on for the game. Small touches like that were super special.”
Steward and his family were shown on the Wells Fargo Center video board midway through the first period. After a few sheepish waves, he burst out with an exuberant “Let’s Go Flyers” chant that got the crowd roaring.
“We saw him on the screen during the game,” Vigneault said “… We know he’s going through a challenging situation, but I’ve got to tell you he’s got a lot of energy and I’d bank on him.”