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.’
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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