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Boy battling leukemia makes memorable hockey goal

10:32 AM, Feb 13, 2013   |    comments
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Video: Reece Scores Big RAW

Reece McPhail, 9, makes a goal with encouragement from another boy who battled leukemia.

ALPHARETTA, Ga. -- The Atlanta Fire's highest-level Pee Wee team had one extra player during Saturday's game at The Cooler. Reece McPhail, 9, is two years younger than the rest of the team, and he had only been on skates twice before.

RAW VIDEO | Watch Reece McPhail make the shot

But he has a special connection to team team goalie, Connor McMahon.

"What do you think about having Reece here with you today?" asked 11Alive's Jennifer Leslie?

"Seems pretty cool," Connor said. 

Connor is a leukemia survivor who began giving back to young cancer patients two years ago by delivering backpacks filled with goodies to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite.

During his most recent delivery, one of the backpacks went to Reece, who was diagnosed with leukemia about a year ago.

"We thought it was very cool that Connor was a hockey player, and he's been through what Reece is going through," said Reece's dad Jeff McPhail.

The two families connected and came up with a plan to let Reece join the team on the bench. But Connor's dad said the coaches wanted to do more.

"Let's dress Reece," said Don McMahon. "Let's put him out there on the ice with the kids. Let's have him take the opening face off and really give him an experience."

On the bench for the opposing team was a familiar face for Atlanta sports fans, Braves legend Tom Glavine who now coaches his son's hockey team.

"Certainly a great opportunity for our boys in a small way to be part of it and see some of the struggles that a lot of kids are going through in life," Glavine said. "It's pretty inspiring for everybody."

When the puck dropped for the start of the game, Reece took it and skated toward the goal as players for both teams called out his name and banged their hockey sticks against the boards in support.

"This is actually his third time on the ice. So for him to get in the middle and skate, that's amazing," said Paige McPhail, Reece's mom. 

Reece fell once on his way to the goal, then got up and made his shot. He fell a second time as the puck went into the goal. The parents, players and coaches cheered. 

Reece was surrounded by his new teammates as he made his way to the bench for the rest of the game.

His first goal was one he won't forget.  

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