The St. Louis Blues will have their biggest fan at TD Garden on Wednesday when the puck drops for the team’s last battle for the Stanley Cup.
The team shared a video Tuesday night of 11-year-old Laila Anderson, who has a life-threatening immune disease, being surprised by the news that she would be heading to Boston to watch Game 7 in person.
“What if I told you the Blues called and they want you at the game,” her mother tells her.
Laila burst into tears, and the video of her reaction quickly went viral.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) June 12, 2019
Laila told NBC Sports that she’s always been a Blues fan, standing near the tunnel to fist-bump players.
“I went to so many games where they would start recognizing my face,” she said, “and then asking, ‘Hey what’s your name?’”
But then, two years ago, the 11-year-old was diagnosed with Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocystosis, or HLH, a rare immune disorder that required her to undergo chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant in January.
Her mom, Heather, told NBC Sports that her daughter noticed that while she was in the hospital fighting her illness, the Blues seemed to be embarking on a battle of their own.
“And as they kept winning and winning, there was just this parallel between the team and Laila,” she told the network.
Laila has befriended Blues defenseman Colton Parayko, who told NBC Sports he’s amazed by the 11-year-old.
After having to spend several months in isolation due to her treatments, Laila was able to attend Game 3 of the conference finals.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) May 14, 2019
The 11-year-old has been a presence at the games since, cheering on “the boys” and rallying her fellow fans.
Forward Alexander Steen told Laila in May that she’s the “lucky charm” for the team, while Patrick Maroon told the 11-year-old she’s their hero.
Nice job, Laila! pic.twitter.com/BNKqFxIKIf
— #StanleyCup Game 7 on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) May 22, 2019
Awesome moment: Pat Maroon meets with 11-year-old Laila Anderson after the Blues advanced to the Stanley Cup Final.
"You are our hero." pic.twitter.com/ZijEbXpYtc
— Andrew Kauffman (@AndrewABC17) May 22, 2019
“She has gone from a fan of the Blues to a friend of the Blues,” Anderson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “She has gone from hospital and home isolation to the Blues’ bench. She has battled through a long 20 months, just like these boys have battled from the bottom to the top.”
Parayko, who wears a bracelet with the words “Laila Strong,” told the newspaper that the 11-year-old motivates him.
“We might lose a hockey game and we’re so frustrated and go home upset, but people are out there trying to battle for their lives,” Parayko said. “That’s the way she is. The thing she taught me is — just be a warrior. It’s meant a lot, because she continues to battle, yet she’s always happy.”
The moment Colton greeted Laila: pic.twitter.com/FMLM4ryS3J
— Benjamin Hochman (@hochman) May 22, 2019