Youngster cements spot as No. 1 Hamilton fan
By Justin Emerson
He sits as close to the bench as he can. Phoenix’s Arcadia Ice Arena isn’t very big, so he can get pretty close. He wears his personalized Hamilton High School Huskies hockey jersey, rooting on his favorite team.
The game ends and the Huskies win. Of course they do; they have every time 7-year-old Will DeMauvise is there to watch. On their way off the ice, they high-five him. He clutches his walker and joins the Huskies in the locker room. He’s part of the team, after all.
He gets to see the inside of the Chandler school’s hockey locker room, but that’s not his favorite part. He’s just like anyone else, and loves what everyone loves at a hockey game: “When they score goals,” he says.
It’s been a tough journey for Will, literally since he was born. He was born at 30 weeks to an emergency cesarean section and spent seven weeks in intensive care. He was born with cerebral palsy affecting his legs, and still needs the assistance of a walker.
But that hasn’t stopped his love of sports. He plays baseball through Miracle League of Arizona, a nonprofit organization that helps children, teens and adults with disabilities.
It was at a Miracle League event that Will’s parents met Dan Nall.
Nall coaches the Hamilton hockey team, and brings the team to the league to help volunteer with the players in Miracle League. Will’s parents are Canadian – Will was born in Canada – which is why they started talking about hockey.
“Because that’s what Canadians do,” Nall said with a laugh.
Nall and the team invited Will to a game last season, and into the locker room pre- and postgame. The players couldn’t get enough of it. They were engaging with him, making him feel part of the team, while smiling from ear-to-ear.
“It’s a great experience for them to realize … as bad as their coach is yelling at them, life can be a hell of a lot worse,” Nall said.
So they kept inviting Will back. And this year they took it further. When Will went to the game and into the locker room as usual, but this time waiting for him, hanging up was a personalized “DeMauvise” No. 1 jersey, with a captain’s “C” on the front.
He thought it was the coolest thing. His mom, Marlee, couldn’t hold back the tears.
“The next thing is he wants to play for them,” Marlee said.
It wasn’t just Marlee. The players made it a point to make sure they were in the room, watching as Will received his gift.
“At first we were playing for the school, now we’re playing for Will,” junior center Owen Baraban said. “It makes me grateful that I’m able to do what I can do, seeing how he can’t do it.”
That night Will’s dad, Gerrard, texted Nall. Will was still awake in his room at 10 p.m., wearing his jersey and playing with the mini stick the team gave him.
Hamilton returns the favor of going to games, too. The team heads to his baseball games, forming the biggest cheering section Miracle League has.
“Having those guys show up to Will’s game really helped to motivate Will and the other kids. They love it, they play harder,” Gerrard said. “I think it’s a reciprocal thing. I think they get motivation from it as well as the kids.
“You can tell there’s a motivation there happening, both ways.”
When Will makes it out to the game, the Huskies have a good-luck charm. There’s only one outcome Will can imagine when he attends.
And why are they going to win, Will?
“Because I’m there.”