Jacob Brown loves hockey.
The 9-year-old from Huntsville looks at home on the ice. His team is the Chargers. The youth team, which operates out of the Huntsville IcePlex, shares the common bond of playing an uncommon sport in Alabama.
The Rocket City is home to its own professional hockey team, the Havoc, but Jacob spends time staying up late to watch his favorite team: the Los Angeles Kings.
Jacob’s passion for his sport can be easily seen whenever he takes off his helmet and reveals his mohawk. The 4th grader will tell you the blue tips are to support his Chargers.
However, it’s support for Jacob that has rallied so many to his side.
Jacob has leukemia. He was diagnosed in April.
Trips to the rink were replaced with blood tests, chemo and occupational therapy while Jacob spent his summer at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis.
"It just broke our heart," said Jacob's mother Mary. "I had to tell him he had chemo, and he cried for about five seconds and said, Ok. This is something I have do to."
Still, hockey was never too far away.
A 3-on-3 benefit tournament was held at the IcePlex in May. The event was streamed live for Jacob while he continued his treatment in Memphis.
"When I first got diagnosed, I had to miss hockey for a really, really long time," said Jacob.
Another campaign involved the help of hockey fans across the country. Jacob received hundreds of signed pucks, cards, hockey sticks and jerseys wishing him strength in his fight.
"Lots of people gave me stuff from states and countries all around the world," said Jacob.
The support from the hockey community was with Jacob throughout the summer. So it’s no surprise where he turned first when he returned home in August.
Coaches began working with Jacob on hockey lessons just months after his diagnosis. He started with half-hour sessions and quickly built up to 50 minutes at a time. Now, he is even practicing with the team he loves once again.
What happens next is nothing short of an Alabama miracle on ice.
Nic Dowd is a professional hockey player in the NHL. Nic has no connections to Jacob Brown other than the simple fact that both Nic and Jacob are from Huntsville.
Nic also happens to play for a very special hockey team: the two-time Stanley Cup-winning Los Angeles Kings.
Jacob and Nic had the chance to talk over the phone with help from Nic’s brother Josh.
"For a kid over here to be fans with LA, and have an outlet to help out and do something good for him?," said Josh Dowd. "It's just nice to be part of that."
The surprise encounter also included autographed hockey sticks from Jacob’s favorite players.
The NHL season begins in October, but Nic has every intention of meeting Jacob in person next spring.
Jacob’s battle is far from over. He is expected to undergo treatments for two years.
Thankfully, Jacob can stay closer to home for some of that time. He will spend his Friday's at the St. Jude affiliate in Huntsville between stays in Memphis.
"He has been very brave," said Lois, an RN at Huntsville Hospital. "He has the best blue mohawk of anybody in the clinic."
Lois also shares a birthday with Jacob and refers to him as her "little-twin".
"We bump fists every week when he comes in," Lois said with a smile.
Jacob has another month-long stay in Memphis coming up in November.
Still, his outlook is bright and his spirits are high.
Hockey season is just around the corner, you know.
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