Lightning make fan's 'dream come true'
Though Jake Warner, 17, lives in Raleigh, N.C., he's a huge Lightning fan, going to several games when his family vacations in Clearwater.
"The only time I get to see them play is when we come down here or they're up in Carolina kicking (the Hurricanes) butts," Warner said.
With Warner facing an unimaginable moment in eight days, having his left leg amputated under his knee due to a rare bone cancer, the Lightning lifted his spirits Saturday in a make-a-wish-like moment. Warner got to sit on the bench during the morning skate, took a tour of the lockeroom and met several Lightning players, as well as GM Steve Yzerman. He wore a signed Steven Stamkos jersey, collecting a few sticks as souvenirs.
"A dream come true," Warner said.
Warner grew up playing lacrosse and hockey, a left wing and center. "I'd be the person you put on (penalty kill)," he said. "Because I was one of the fastest skaters. I'd get in everyone's business and annoy people."
The fact Warner is speaking in past-tense about his hockey career is heart-breaking. Sheila Warner said Jake's left foot started to hurt in April during lacrosse, where he plays goalie. They thought it was a stress fracture until they got an MRI, which revealed several spots, an extremely rare form of cancer called Pseudomyogenichemangioendothelioma.
"Nobody at (University of North Carolina) had ever heard of it," said Craig Warner, Jake's dad. "There's been 10 cases."
Craig Warner said there's no treatment, and radiation would cause damage to the tissue, with the only option removing the limb. Before that surgery, Jake had a wish. The family is friends with former Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford, who relayed the situation to Yzerman. Yzerman was happy to accommodate, saying it was gratifying to him and the team to "put a smile on his face." "It certainly puts things into perspective," Yzerman said. And Yzerman was the favorite person Jake met.
"He's a legend, he's a Hall of Famer," Jake said. "One of the greatest there is."