The number of children who dream about stepping onto an NHL ice surface, in their favorite team’s jersey is countless.
On Tuesday, there was no more dreaming for Jackson Boboth.
That dream for Boboth, 9, became reality at Kraken Community Iceplex on Tuesday. Following the first practice the Kraken actually had time to utilize since their seven-game road trip earlier in the month, he stepped out of the stands with family, on an invite from the team.
The next 30 minutes would then serve as launching pad for the moments to remember for a lifetime. As a guest from the nonprofit Make-A-Wish Alaska & Washington organization, he suited up in fresh goaltending equipment, slipped on a perfectly fitted Reverse Retro ice blue jersey, took shots from Matty Beniers, and accepted goaltending tips from his favorite players, Philipp Grubauer and Martin Jones – also fellow goaltenders.
Was this the best day ever?
“Yes,” said Boboth.
He even emphatically leaned into the microphone to deliver the answer in his very own media scrum, tucked inside his own dressing room stall nearby Grubauer, Jones, and Chris Driedger.
Boboth was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia two years ago. He followed the build of the team even before their first game last season.
He has made progress with his health. Now skating with the Kraken in present day, Boboth continues to undergo routine treatments but has recovered from losing his ability to walk, along with hair loss.
“It’s really a dream come true and in Jackson’s case, a wish come true,” said organization spokesperson Kathryn Mueller. “He’s been looking forward to this since Make-A-Wish called two years ago.”
During treatment, the vision of stepping onto the ice in a Kraken jersey never left his mind.
“In the hospital, in darkest times, he was thinking about this,” said Mueller. “Now seeing him, full of joy, it’s gotten him through with the promise of better days ahead.”
Those better days now included one-on-one attention he said that he took away from Grubauer, on the essence of footwork and athletic strength with returning to a standing position. Head coach Dave Hakstol, who greeted the family the second he left the ice surface at the conclusion of practice, couldn’t help but crack a smile at Jackson’s progress.
“Jackson comes out and brings unbelievable energy out there,” said Hakstol. “You can see his family, his siblings, it’s pretty special for everybody’s day.”
But taking shots from Beniers wasn’t the source from the toughest drill of the day.
“My brother,” said Boboth, referencing his twin. “He’s the only one not afraid to hurt me.”
“He’s next man up,” said Hakstol on Jackson’s glove hand. “He looked pretty good out there today. I wouldn’t be shooting at his glove; I can tell you that.”
Boboth and family are expected to be in attendance at Climate Pledge Arena on Wednesday, when the Kraken host the Vancouver Canucks at 7pm PT (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network).
BURAKOVSKY, GOURDE SITTING OUT
Practice was short of four players in the routine Kraken lineup with forward John Hayden back in the mix, officially recalled from AHL Coachella Valley two days after he was sent down.
Justin Schultz, injured in a Jan. 17 loss at Edmonton, officially was downgraded to a week-to-week status and has not been seen on ice since leaving the game early. Jaden Schwartz, listed day-to-day and out officially with an undisclosed ailment, is doubtful to return on Wednesday. He was seen though on ice, skating in a track suit before the main group started their 10:30am session.
Hakstol said Andre Burakovsky and Yanni Gourde, both skating before the main group on Tuesday and previously seen in street clothes in Sunday’s skills showcase event at Climate Pledge Arena, will be a “game time decision” to enter the lineup on Wednesday night.
Burakovsky, who leads the Kraken with 38 points in 45 games and skated in warmups before last Saturday’s game but did not play, missed his first game all year in the overtime loss to Colorado.
Part of the intrigue of a team competing for a playoff spot, nearly 60% through the season, is the prevailing pursuit to avoid complacency – even through a stretch where the Kraken swept through a seven-game road trip and eight in a row, despite almost no time to practice in between 12 games in 21 days.
Despite the growth of injuries in a bountiful month yielding a 9-2-1 record, Hakstol said tweaks continue each day within the team, inclusive of accountability the lineup. The Kraken, up front, had to manage without Burakovsky and Schwartz, shuffling the forward group. Schultz has been missing for two games on the back end.
Hakstol said in lieu of the absent practice time, conversations off ice and through video have delivered the message.
“Whoever’s available has to go in a do a job,” said Hakstol. “We had some holes the other night. Some of the guys who had new opportunities, let’s be honest, have to do a little better in some of those elevated positions. But that’s part of the opportunity – building off a previous performance.”
“The goal isn’t to come away with one point,” said Hakstol. “The goal is to come away with two points.”
Hakstol referenced the leadership within the Kraken dressing room, who set the tone for improvement.
“This group has continually looked for ways to push to be a little bit better,” said Hakstol. “Again, that starts with the older guys in the room and their hunger to do that.”
The Kraken entered Tuesday one point back of the first place Vegas Golden Knights in the Pacific Division, yet only holding onto a playoff spot by six points over the Colorado Avalanche.