At the Ducks’ home-opener, captain Ryan Getzlaf gave up his spot as the final skater to hit the ice as part of a pre-game ceremony. Instead, Kai Quinonez, a 13-year-old battling a rare blood disorder, took the ice last to huge applause from a sellout crowd at Honda Center.
During the pre-game ceremony at NHL home openers, the last player to hit the ice is generally the captain. And Monday evening, Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf would have been the final Duck to skate out onto Honda Center ice were it not for a special fan in attendance.
As part of the Ducks’s season-opening ceremony, 13-year-old Kai Quinonez was the final skater to hit the ice for the home side. Quinonez suffers from a rare blood disease called aplastic anemia, which he has been battling for the past five years. According to the Mayo Clinic, aplastic anemia occurs when your body stops producing enough new blood cells, and leaves those suffering from the serious condition fatigued and results in a higher risk of infections, bruising and uncontrolled bleeding.
After being introduced to the Honda Center crowd with a full introduction, including a scoreboard graphic, Quinonez skated to the blueline to join the rest of his new teammates:
Quinonez wore No. 47 when he took the ice, the same number as Anaheim defenseman Hampus Lindholm. Lindholm is Quinonez’s favorite player, he said, telling the OC Register’s Eric Stephens that Lindholm is, “a good young gun. He’s just really nice. He always works really hard to achieve what he does.”
Quinonez was granted the opportunity to join the Ducks through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Originally, Quinonez was granted a day with the team and took part in a practice with some Ducks players, but the team stepped up to have him join them on ice as part of the opening-night lineup, too.