Ducks name fan battling cancer to Opening Night roster

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/teams/ana/" data-ylk="slk:Anaheim Ducks">Anaheim Ducks</a> right wing <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/players/3365/" data-ylk="slk:Corey Perry">Corey Perry</a>, left, and center <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/players/5391/" data-ylk="slk:Rickard Rakell">Rickard Rakell</a>, right, assist Katie Hawley as she is introduced as the “21st Duck” during opening night. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
Anaheim Ducks right wing Corey Perry, left, and center Rickard Rakell, right, assist Katie Hawley as she is introduced as the “21st Duck” during opening night. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

When the Anaheim Ducks opened their 2017-18 at home on Thursday night, coach Randy Carlyle made a late addition to his roster to counter the strengths of the visiting Arizona Coyotes.

Katie Hawley, 17, who has been diagnosed with cancer three different times, was introduced pre-game as the “21st Duck” along with the rest of the opening-night lineup. Created in 2015, the “21st Duck” initiative reserves a spot on the team’s opening-night roster for ‘a fan who exhibits great perseverance, character, courage and inspiration.’

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A diehard Ducks fan, Hawley has been fighting cancer since age nine. When she was diagnosed for a third time in 2016, she told her parents she, “didn’t want to fight anymore” but after striking up a friendship with her favourite player, Rickard Rakell, now she is the one inspiring others to never give up.

Katie has beat the disease twice and endured at least a dozen surgeries, two dozen chemotherapy sessions, 30 radiation treatments, 80 scans, and 40 blood transfusions. She plays a role as a ‘Courageous Kid’ with the Jessie Rees Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting children fighting cancer.

After the emotional moment on Thursday night, Anaheim stumbled out of the gate, falling behind 4-1 but stormed back, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Coyotes 5-4. Fittingly, 24-year-old Rakell scored the game-winner with 3:30 left to play and after the game, the young Swede joined Katie for some post-game reaction.

Katie, still undergoing treatement, plans to attend college next year.

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