Eight-year-old Charlie Druken from Paradise was, as his mom puts it, “one happy little camper” last Thursday night after dropping the puck to start the game and later hanging out with the Boston Bruins’ Alumni squad at Mile One Centre.
The Bruins oldtimers squad and the Montreal Canadiens Alumni team hooked up at Mile One, and feature some of the stars of yesteryear, including Boston’s Ray Bourque, Rick Middleton, Terry O’Reilly and Ken Linesman, and Montreal’s John LeClair, Stephane Richer and Gary Leeman.
Prior to the game, organizers posted an advertisement on social media looking for someone to do the ceremonial puck drop at the Bruins/Habs Alumni game. The ad called for someone who could use a lift in spirit, who may have been enduring some problems.
“Someone whom we could bring a smile to their face … even if it was only for one night,” said Rian Mugford, of the Bruins/Canadiens Alumni Tour.
Enter Cinda Druken, Charlie’s mother. She explained her son — he has a twin sister, Gracie — has a condition known as hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT) which, according to Wikipedia, is a “rare autosomal dominant genetic disorder that leads to abnormal blood vessel formation in the skin, mucous membranes, and often in organs such as the lungs, liver, and brain.”
Basically, blood vessels branch off and venture out to places in the body where they are not supposed to be, she said. The result can be arteriovenous malformation (AVMs), which could cause a bleed in the brain, among other places.
It’s a rare condition, ever rarer among juveniles, and there is no known cure.
Charlie was selected to drop the puck between Bourque and Darren Langdon, the Deer Lake native who spent one season with the Canadiens.
Afterwards, he got to mingle with the former stars on his favourite team.
“Even though he retired before Charlie was born,” said his mother, “Charlie loves Ray Bourque. He really looks up to him. His father (Ray Druken) is a Cam Neely fan.”
It’s not Charlie’s first time meeting his hero. Two years ago, when the Bruins Alumni played a game at the newly-opened Paradise arena, Charlie suited up for a novice team which played between periods.
Then 6, young Druken was the only child rocking a Bruins jersey.
“He went in on a breakaway and scored,” his mom recalls. “Ray Bourque picked him up and carried him around the ice.
“It’s funny, as soon as Ray put him down, Charlie took off like a rocket after the puck.”
Despite the disease, Charlie still plays hockey, with the Ultimate Warriors, a second-year novice team in the Paradise minor association.
“There’s nothing we can do except closely monitor him,” said his mother. “Other than that, he’s an active eight-year-old boy … living the dream, as they say.”
Thursday night, his dream came true.