Bryce Rogerson's dream of joining the New York Rangers hockey team came true on Nov. 29, when the 11-year-old was brought on as an honorary coach.
Bryce Rogerson’s dream of joining the New York Rangers hockey team recently came true when the 11-year-old was brought on as an honorary coach.
The fifth-grader, who was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, “coached” his favorite sports team through Madison Square Garden’s Garden of Dreams Foundation during their game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Nov. 29.
“I had the best day ever,” Bryce, who also dropped the puck at center ice before the game, tells PEOPLE. “Like I can’t play many sports because of my condition, but I was part of the team.”
Bryce, who had three open heart surgeries as a baby, was put on the transplant list in March 2011. Three years later, at the age of 8, he received a new heart.
In and out out of hospitals for most of his life, Bryce found comfort in watching the New York Rangers play on television before surgeries. When it was time for his big transplant, he brought Henrik Lundqvist’s jersey into surgery with him for good luck.
“He is my favorite player, and his jersey is comforting. I don’t know I can’t explain it!” Bryce, from Neversink, New York, says of the team’s goaltender. “He’s just, like, cool.”
After the win against the Hurricanes, Bryce hung out with his idol in the locker room. The new buds posed for photos and chatted about the game.
Bryce grinned from ear-to-ear as he looked to Lundqvist and gave him a high-five.
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“He’s special,” Lundqvist, 34, tells PEOPLE. “He went through so much and is still positive. He has a great outlook on life.
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“He’s an inspiration,” the athlete added.
The Garden of Dreams helps kids from the tristate area facing homelessness, extreme poverty and illness make their biggest wishes come true. And for Bryce, that dream was coaching the Rangers.
“I still can’t believe it!” he says with a smile.
In addition to signing a coaching contract and dropping the puck, Bryce attended a morning skate practice, sat on the bench during warm-ups and watched the game from a suite with Rangers legend Adam Graves.
“Seriously,” says Bryce, who is in excellent health since his surgery two years ago. “Best day ever!”