You often hear about hockey players making time to cheer up sick kids. But one such meeting in Regina Wednesday night was extra special because the athlete knows exactly what the young fan is going through.
Both Tim Bozon, the WHL star and Montreal Canadiens draft pick and Alex Smidt, 13, a huge fan of the Habs, have battled meningitis.
Bozon currently plays for the Kootenay Ice. His bout with meningitis arose when he was playing in Saskatoon. Meningitis is a serious condition that affects the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
Smidt contracted bacterial meningitis in the summer and has been going through a long and challenging recovery that has included six surgeries. A recent procedure involved replacing a large portion of his skull.
Considering the boy's love of the Canadiens — and the connections to Bozon — a group of hockey fans helped to coordinate the visit, which took place after a game between the Kootenay Ice and the Regina Pats.
"He had meningitis like me and he collapsed on the ice and they had to carry him out on a stretcher," the youngster said prior to the meeting.
His father said the common bond his son shares with Bozon is unique.
"You know, he fought for his life just like my son and he overcome a lot of odds, just like Alex," John Smidt said. "That's why I think he's like a perfect Montreal Canadiens player or a prospect or pick. And like Alex is one of their perfect fans because they're a lot like the team. They have a lot of heart. They don't quit, and they persevered."
The youngster is aiming to return to school in September. Keeping up with the Canadiens has proven to be a morale booster. His bedroom at home is festooned with team posters and other items from the team.
Smidt was also treated to an extra long hockey game as the teams needed an overtime shootout contest to settle the game. The Kootenay Ice won, 5-4.