VOORHEES, N.J. — Luke Rogers was standing in front of his locker stall wearing a shiny-new Flyers jersey when James van Riemsdyk walked up and handed him a stick.
Rogers smiled and graciously thanked van Riemsdyk. Both had just gotten off the practice ice at Flyers Skate Zone, a time to share their bond of hockey.
It was two Jersey boys living the NHL dream.
For Rogers, a moment with his idol.
For van Riemsdyk, a day to help a 14-year-old's fight.
(Jordan Hall/NBC Sports Philadelphia)
Rogers is currently receiving treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at Rutgers Cancer Institute. He's a native of Morganville, New Jersey, about a 30-minute drive from Middletown, where van Riemsdyk grew up and eventually turned into the No. 2 overall pick of the 2007 NHL draft.
With his diagnosis, Rogers had the game stripped away from him — temporarily.
"It really ate away at me," he said Wednesday. "Hockey is my life, it's always been my life. So when I got back to playing, it was the joy of my life."
A joy he's now having again at the same rink in which van Riemsdyk played as a youngster. On Wednesday, though, he took to the Flyers' practice facility where he skated alongside van Riemsdyk, took shots on Calvin Pickard and signed a one-day contract with the big club.
(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)
Rogers will be at the Wells Fargo Center Nov. 27 for Flyers Hockey Fights Cancer Night and to read off the starting lineup in the locker room.
He's a warrior — a perfect fit for the organization's history of toughness.
"I was diagnosed in October 2015 and then I started playing hockey again in January 2017," Rogers said. "So that year, I couldn't walk, couldn't bathe myself, couldn't do anything. Then I got my port out, which we got all of my really intense [chemotherapy] through, and I just started playing full contact and stuff.
"Not nearly where I was before now, but I'll get there. And my treatment is over in February of 2019."
Rogers called meeting van Riemsdyk "pretty surreal."
"Me and my friends, we've followed his whole family because they're from around where I live," Rogers said. "So I've been following him for a long time, played with teams I've played for, organizations.
"My whole life I've wanted to meet him."
It was special for van Riemsdyk, too.
"I think that's one of the nice things for me about playing in a place that's relatively close to home," the Flyers' winger said. "I'm only an hour and a half away from here, so getting stuff like that and realizing the chance you have to share it with people from your area where you grew up is pretty cool.
"A situation like this where you have someone who is out there playing in the same rink I played growing up — you have that extra sense of connection."
One that came together for two Jersey boys, not far from home.
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