Thanks to Toronto Maple Leafs winger Michael Grabner, the Denver Broncos had one extra fan in the stands to watch them win Super Bowl 50 Sunday night. It wasn’t Grabner himself, though.
Grabner, like many kids playing major junior, needed a billet family to stay with during his time with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs. The Austrian native ended up spending his years in Spokane with the McCann family, and it was there he met Rachel McCann, a teacher and diehard Broncos fan. According to The Spokesman-Review, Grabner lived with the McCann’s during his WHL stay until 2007, when he left Spokane and headed to Manitoba to play for the AHL’s Moose.
It turns out McCann is a huge Broncos fan even though she’s right in the middle of Seahawks fan territory. Grabner knew of McCann’s fandom, in large part because he liked to tease her about the Broncos whenever they were playing. But when the Broncos made the Super Bowl, Grabner had an idea of how to repay McCann for all she had done for him.
“My husband told me that Heather (Grabner’s wife) and Michael were going to FaceTime me,” McCann told The Spokesman-Review’s Thomas Clouse. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, they are pregnant. They are telling me something big.’ Then they told me they got tickets for the Super Bowl for myself and Rob. (Grabner) was so cute. He was really excited about giving this to me.”
Grabner wouldn’t disclose how much he spent on tickets and airfare to send the McCann’s to the game because he didn’t want to be paid back in any way.
“It’s obviously just a perfect situation with the Super Bowl (near) San Francisco and the Broncos being in it,” Grabner told Clouse. “Hopefully, they will have a good time.”
For Grabner, it was his way of paying back his second family. According to Clouse, it was the McCann’s who stood with Grabner as his family at the 2006 draft, where he went 14th overall to the Vancouver Canucks. Grabner visits Spokane and the McCann’s almost every summer and the Grabners have given the McCann’s 10-year-old son, Timothy, a place to say in visits to New York. McCann said she and her husband consider the 28-year-old Grabner one of their sons.
“When you leave home at that young of an age, (the McCanns) definitely made it easier for me,” Grabner told Clouse. “They were really young. It was easy to relate with them. That was the best three years of my life.”