When Ethan O’Mailia entered the Pepsi Center on Friday night, he said he didn’t know what to expect.
O’Mailia was selected by his Moffat County Bulldogs club hockey team coaches and the Moffat County commissioners to warm up with the Colorado Avalanche before a game against the Anaheim Ducks.
Before heading to Denver, O’Mailia, a Moffat County High School junior, said he anticipated being on the ice with the Avalanche players, but wanted to stay out of their way as they prepared for the Ducks.
That was not the case.
“(The Avalanche) let me do things they haven’t in the past for other youth,” O’Mailia said. “I expected to stand there, but they let me skate a lap with them before the National Anthem and stand on the blue line with the starting five during.
“It was more exciting than I had anticipated.”
O’Mailia was joined by his grandfather, David O’Mailia, in a private locker room to get dressed in a number 11 Colorado Avalanche jersey with his last name on it and official team socks, both of which he got to keep.
As the team headed onto the ice for the final warm up, O’Mailia followed behind in a moment he couldn’t find words to describe.
“I’m not sure how to say it, but it was the biggest adrenaline rush I have ever had,” he said. “It was probably the most exhilarating thing I have ever done.”
Along with the jersey and socks, O’Mailia received a hockey puck the team used to practice with and four row 19 tickets.
O’Mailia’s grandfather, uncle and cousin joined him behind the net during the game and his grandmother and other cousins came to be part of his special experience.
“I was so happy my family was there to experience it as well,” O’Mailia said. “My grandparents raised me and I am lucky they have been there that much for me.”
When O’Mailia’s parents split, his father was given full custody.
But, before O’Mailia turned 6, his father passed away and he went to live with his grandparents.
“(My grandparents) have been so supportive of me,” O’Mailia said. “We never really watched hockey before, but now after games my grandpa will point out things I could work on and help me out.”
David said raising O’Mailia has been an amazing experience.
“It has been a joy, a real joy,” he said. “After our boys moved out on their own, it is great to have Ethan here.”
When O’Mailia started playing hockey 11 years ago, David said O’Mailia’s grandmother and him were there every step.
“We take him to all the practices and all the games to support him,” he said. “I would rather watch a hockey game more than a football game now.”
During the warm ups in the Pepsi Center, David said he was about as happy as O’Mailia was.
“I got to stand on a deck by the glass during all of Ethan’s activities,” he said. “I was really excited and happy for him that he was chosen for this opportunity.
“It is a once in a lifetime experience for him.”
Despite the Avalanche losing, 6-2, O’Mailia said the experience would be something he will always remember.
“It was amazing,” he said.
Joshua Gordon can be reached at 875-1795 or at email@example.com.
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