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Making his Lightning wish come true

He grew up in Edmonton, but 13-year-old Connor Perkins was in Tampa on Tuesday, fulfilling his wish to be a Lightning player.
Tampa Bay Lightning’s Kevin Shattenkirk sits next to Connor Perkins, 12, in his stall after Tuesday’s morning skate. Perkins is a part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Alberta, Canada, and his No. 1 wish was to be a Lightning player for a day. [DIANA C. NEARHOS | Times]
Tampa Bay Lightning’s Kevin Shattenkirk sits next to Connor Perkins, 12, in his stall after Tuesday’s morning skate. Perkins is a part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Alberta, Canada, and his No. 1 wish was to be a Lightning player for a day. [DIANA C. NEARHOS | Times]
Published Feb. 4, 2020|Updated Feb. 5, 2020

TAMPA — Kevin Shattenkirk parted the crowd, creating a path for Tampa Bay’s honorary guest Tuesday morning.

”Watch out, make room, All-Star coming through,” Shattenkirk said in a louder tone as he walked into the locker room ahead of 13-year-old Connor Perkins.

Perkins, who was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis in 2007, is a diehard Lightning fan despite growing up in Edmonton.

He watches all of the games at home with his family. And it was his No. 1 wish to be a Lightning player for a day through the Make-A-Wish Alberta Foundation.

“Play hard and win,” the newest Tampa Bay “signee,” told the team this morning.

Related: Related: What we learned while the Lightning was away

Perkins was seatmates with Shattenkirk on Tuesday morning ahead of Tampa Bay’s matchup against the Vegas Golden Knights. The two sat side-by-side, chatting it up as they took off their gear.

Perkins peppered him with questions.

“What time do you come in? Do you skate before every game? Do you eat here before games?”

It was in the midst of one of Shattenkirk’s answers — when Perkins had taken off his personalized jersey and shoulder pads — that the Lightning defenseman saw a potential problem.

“Oh no,” Shattenkirk said. “A Canada shirt? I don’t know if this is going to work.”

Perkins cracked a smile and continued to take off his gear, carefully placing each item into the pink Vera Bradley duffle bag next to him.

“It takes a man to walk in the locker room with a pink bag,” Shattenkirk joked.

Related: Related: Lightning Super Bowl memories: The projector cut out on Jon Cooper

Perkins skated with the team for a bit Tuesday. He fired passes across the ice to Steven Stamkos for his signature one-timer. He led the team circle for a cool-down stretch and he even scored a goal or two against Andrei Vasilevskiy.

“(Victor Hedman) better watch his back there on the power play with those passes,” Stamkos quipped.

Perkins also showed some of the players his favorite party trick: dry-swallowing all 15 of his daily pills. The guys were impressed, but Perkins was more impressed that he could impress them.

Perkins started watching the Lightning when they drafted Stamkos in 2008. Tina, his mom, said the young hockey fan has played street hockey since he could practically walk but his chronic condition makes it difficult for scheduled sports. Connor’s two favorite players are the Lightning captain and Nikita Kucherov. Connor’s jersey collection includes their home jerseys.

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When Connor was born, his family knew he qualified for Make-A-Wish, but they wanted to wait until he was older so he could make the wish his own. In October 2018, Connor’s condition worsened.

“The last few years have been really hard on our family,” Tina said. “The last time he ended up in the hospital and we decided this is hitting him really hard ... and it was taking his toll on him. Now would be a really good time to get the ball rolling."

The social worker at the hospital talked things over with his doctors and they agreed Connor could use his wish. They approached Connor with one request: Think big.

Connor sat on the decision for quite a while, thinking about this and that, but once the hockey season started he knew nothing would compare to a Lightning experience like this, Tina said.

And about a week and a half ago, Connor got word his wish was coming true.

“It’s great for Connor to come out here and sign the player contract. He’s obviously been battling a lot,” Stamkos said. “We’re happy to have him here today and make his dream come true, and we’re glad he’s here with us.”

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) bumps fists with Connor Perkins, Lightning player for a day through the Make-A-Wish Alberta Foundation, along with his older brother Colin Perkins, as Stamkos makes his way down the tunnel followed by his team for the pregame warm ups before taking on the Vegas Golden Knights at Amalie Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020 in Tampa.
Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) bumps fists with Connor Perkins, Lightning player for a day through the Make-A-Wish Alberta Foundation, along with his older brother Colin Perkins, as Stamkos makes his way down the tunnel followed by his team for the pregame warm ups before taking on the Vegas Golden Knights at Amalie Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020 in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times ]

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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