Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Giants fan Ethan McClean surprised with US trip to meet NHL superstar Alex Ovechkin

Ethan McClean (11), from Ballymena, presents Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin with a Belfast Giants jersey
Ethan McClean (11), from Ballymena, presents Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin with a Belfast Giants jersey
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

A Co Antrim boy who has a life-limiting illness was surprised with a trip to Washington DC at the weekend not rub shoulders with some of the best ice hockey players in the world.

Ethan McClean, an 11-year-old from Ballymena who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, was whisked away to the US capital to meet players from NHL team the Washington Capitals and play golf with their captain, Alexander Ovechkin.

Initially under the illusion that he was travelling to see the Belfast Giants, who he is a massive fan of, play against the Guildford Flames on Sunday, Ethan was shocked at the airport by the news that they were instead going to the USA!

The trip was organised by a generous season ticket holder at the Capitals, who wished to remain anonymous, but paid for Ethan and his parents, Andy and Yvette, to fly out to Washington.

There, they attended Saturday’s game between the Capitals and the New Jersey Devils, with Ethan appearing on the big screen at the Capital One Arena prior to the game starting as the Devils won 5-1.

But the real excitement came on Sunday when they met Capitals and Russia superstar Ovechkin and the rest of the NHL team at their “Wish Upon A Par” event held at TopGolf driving range in the city.

Ethan gifted Ovechkin with a Giants jersey, with the Washington captain joining them to hit a few shots and then returning the favour by getting the rest of his team-mates to sign Ethan’s own jersey with “Ovechkin 8” on the back.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a terminal disease which has rapidly weakened Ethan’s muscles since he was diagnosed at the age of just 18 months and has already limited him to a wheelchair for several years. Sadly, there is no known cure.

But parents Andy and Yvette have dedicated countless hours to giving Ethan as many experiences as possible and, with support from across the sporting world, they have provided him with some incredible experiences and memories.

Last November, Ethan and his family were taken to Pittsburgh in a trip organised by current Giants player, and former Pittsburgh Penguin, Bobby Farnham, where they were greeted by Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, Ethan’s favourite player.

The family also visited the Nashville Predators, where Ethan became friends with star player P.K. Subban, and ECHL side the Atlanta Gladiators, who invited Marvel fan Ethan to their superhero night in 2018.

Ethan’s bedroom is decorated with ice hockey memorabilia from around the world, donated by friends and players alike, reflecting just what an impact he has had on so many people.

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