Keven Wilson wasn’t worried about what to wear for his son Tom’s NHL debut Friday night. He was more concerned with getting to the rink early.
Wilson knew his 19-year old son, who had just been summoned to the NHL club after the end of the Hershey Bears’ season, was unlikely to log many minutes in a high-pressure playoff game.
“If you want to see them on the ice, it’s nice to see them warm up, because they might not get too many shifts,” he said.
So after flying in from Toronto earlier Friday, Keven wore a nondescript black pullover to Verizon Center. His eldest son Peter, though, wore one of Tom’s jerseys from the Plymouth Whalers, a previous stop. And with that, their cover was blown.
“It was tough to be anonymous,” the father joked. “People were recognizing us all over the place.”
One fan after another approached the Wilsons, asking if they were related to Tom, wishing them the best, and expressing enthusiasm about the highly regarded winger.
“It was really quite an experience,” Keven said Saturday, after flying back to Toronto. “We were blown away by how friendly everyone was. It’s a different place.”
They were also blown away by the sea of red. Keven said he’s accustomed to a more buttoned-up, corporate crowd that frequents Maple Leafs games. In Washington, it seemed, everyone wore jerseys, and everyone wore red.
One fan mentioned that Wilson could buy a jersey during the first intermission and have it personalized before the end of the game, but he was too caught up in the taut battle and his son’s debut to follow through.
The game, of course, remained tied at 1 after 60 minutes, necessitating overtime. The Wilsons went out to stretch their legs before the extra session.
“Next thing I know, this fellow shows up and throws a jersey at me,” Keven recalled. “He said ‘You’re in Washington, you have to have a Washington jersey.’ ”
When Wilson unfolded the red sweater, he realized it had been personalized with his son’s name and number.
“I can’t take this from you, are you kidding me?” he said.
“This is a great day for you and your family,” the stranger said. “I want you to have it.”
Overtime soon began. The Caps won, making Tom’s debut a success. And the Wilsons left, without managing to get the name of their new friend, who wished them luck and said he hoped they’d meet again.
“What a great way to start your career,” Keven said Saturday. “And to have the fans be so friendly and so welcoming–to have a guy give me my son’s jersey to wear? How could it be better than that?”