WASHINGTON — The limo pulled up to Capital One Arena with T.J. Oshie and a special guest just hours before the Capitals’ game Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks.
Brock Witmoyer, an 18-year-old from Reading, Pa., has been fighting cancer since 2016. His big wish was simply to meet Oshie and talk hockey. Through Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic he got more than he could have ever hoped this weekend.
Witmoyer has used hockey as a temporary escape from his fight. He plays club hockey at his high school and admires Oshie’s flashy skill and hard game. On Friday at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, he got to wear a lavender No. 21 Make-A-Wish jersey with his name on the back and take the ice with Oshie and the other Capitals.
As he laced up his skates after watching practice, Witmoyer was nervous. He hadn’t picked up a stick in almost a year. But he got a fist bump from Oshie and a warm greeting from the other players and an introduction by coach Todd Reirden. Then he skated with Oshie and took some shots on goal. Oshie even let him use his stick.
“Brock was using my curve. I have a pretty big curve. So I was just telling him to just keep it on the heel,” Oshie said. “That was pretty much it. Once I did that he scored three in a row. That’s what we were trying to do – get him three in a row. He got her done. He’s got some skills out there. I was impressed.”
Witmoyer’s dream weekend wasn’t finished. He attended Saturday’s Hockey Fights Cancer game against the Vancouver Canucks and was introduced with the starting lineup alongside Oshie and five other Make-A-Wish kids. He also picked up Oshie at his house in a limo and they rode to Capital One Arena in the morning for the 12:30 p.m. game.
“Just getting a fist bump from [Oshie] was enough, but being able to talk to him and see what he’s like, it’s just an insane experience. It’s surreal,” Witmoyer said. “I never thought I would have this opportunity.”
Witmoyer became an Oshie fan when many people did: During the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Oshie’s legendary performance in the shootout round of a quarterfinal game against Russia helped the United States advance to the semifinals in a 3-2 win.
Doctors couldn’t get all of Witmoyer’s brain tumor during a 2016 surgery and he needs regular checkups to make sure it isn’t growing again. But he is done with treatment for now and that is a blessing. MRI results this week showed no growth in the tumor over the past year. There is hope for the immediate future.
Now a student at Reading Area Community College after graduating from Wilson High in Reading, Witmoyer hopes to attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania next semester and maybe even join the hockey team there.
But for 36 hours this weekend he was part of the Capitals. He watched warm-ups from the bench, was interviewed on the scoreboard and stood on the ice with Oshie and the Capitals as the Canadian and American national anthems played and the big crowd roared cheers for him and his fellow fighters, a dream come true for kids who deserved the ovation.
“It was kind of like a blur,” Witmoyer said. “Skating on the ice at first I was really nervous, but as I started talking to players and shooting more it started to go away. It felt natural.”
MORE CAPITALS NEWS: