DENVER (KDVR) — A 12-year-old-girl from Canada, who considers herself one of the Colorado Avalanche’s biggest fans, is getting a trip to the Stanley Cup thanks to a lot of very generous people.
Elise Simard and her mother Christy live outside North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada. Their small farm, where they raise animals and make bars of soap, is more than 1,000 miles north of Denver. Their closest city with an NHL team is Edmonton. However, Elise is a “die-hard” Avalanche fan.
“It’s the first thing you do when you get up and it’s the last thing you do before you go to bed, is watch your hockey boys, isn’t it?” Christy said to Elise.
Elise’s journey to becoming an Avs fan began when she was born prematurely at 26 weeks. According to her mother, she only found out she was pregnant 36 hours before Elise was born.
“She spent her first 169 days in the hospital to discover a whole bunch of different medical conditions,” Christy said.
Elise suffers from paralyzed vocal cords, requiring a tracheal tube that allows her to breathe. She also has a seizure disorder and some developmental delays. Her health conditions are what led her to attend a Victoria Grizzlies hockey game in British Columbia.
“It was a fundraiser for what’s called Help Fill a Dream, which is a Vancouver Island-specific charity for kids to do dreams like Make-A-Wish, but just for kids on the island,” Christy said.
At the game, she met a player named Alex Newhook.
“She met Alex there for the first time there and she was smitten,” Christy said.
Elise attended multiple Grizzly games to cheer on Alex. He noticed when she suddenly stopped showing up.
According to Alex, when he learned Elise was in the hospital, he decided to go visit her.
“Saw her on the glass the first time she was there and gave her a little fist bump,” Alex said during a press conference in April 2022. “She’s been a great supporter for me, definitely a light in my life.”
Elise has continued to follow and support Alex as he moved from the Grizzlies to Boston College and then to the Colorado Avalanche.
“We’ve watched him grow up and he’s seen her grow up and we’ve just had a really cool connection and we’re so thankful for that,” Christy said.
Elise was able to see him play for the Avs for the first time in 2022 while the team was visiting Edmonton for a regular season game.
Alex posted a picture on Instagram of her behind the glass, saying, “We don’t lose when Elise is in the building.”
To keep the lucky streak going, Christy started a GoFundMe account to help pay for a trip so Elise could watch Alex and the Avs in the first round of the playoffs in Denver. They attended Game 1 and Game 2.
“Alex arranged for her to come to Game 1 practice and so she got to meet everybody,” Christy said.
And now that “her boys” are in the Stanley Cup Final, Elise is fundraising for a return trip.
Within days, the GoFundMe surpassed its goal of $6,500 CAD, which will cover plane tickets, hotels and day-to-day expenses on the trip. The pair are still working to secure tickets to Game 1 or Game 2.
“For her, she doesn’t understand that they’re not just hockey boys. Like, Alex for her is still just Alex from the Grizzlies,” Christy said.
She says while Elise does not understand the gravity of the game she is about to see, the experience is about much more than hockey.
“There’s not words to describe what this means to us and to her and to watch her,” she said. “Just watching her and watching the joy and watching her light up, I think that’s every parent’s goal is to watch their child shine. … To just, you know, find something that she’s passionate about that she loves, that she’s learning and she’s thriving because of it. We don’t have a lot of those things.”
According to Christy, any extra money leftover in the fundraiser will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.