Sports fans are conditioned to prepare for the day when their favorite player will no longer play for their favorite team. For young Liam Traynor, however, he lost more than his favorite player when Michael Del Zotto was traded from the New York Rangers to the Nashville Predators. He lost a close friend.
Traynor, who lives with cerebral palsy and also has a close relationship with former Rangers head coach John Tortorella, was prominently featured in a segment of HBO's 24/7: Flyers/Rangers Road to the Winter Classic in 2012. During the segment, Liam's prized possession, an autographed jersey of Del Zotto's was hanging from his bed post.
The two have remained in touch since Del Zotto moved to Nashville.
“He texted me right away [after the trade], and I knew he was pretty sad,” Del Zotto told Jim Diamond in this wonderful feature at RinsideReport.com. “I didn't know what to say. It was a tough time obviously for both of us. He was pretty sad to see me go, but he is still watching every game. I am a little bit further away, but he is still watching. I can't wait to have him down here to catch a game.”
As it turns out Traynor couldn't wait either, but a trip to Nashville would prove costly. Knowing that, fellow Ranger fans had an idea to reunite the youngster with Del Zotto and started an online fundraiser. According to Diamond, it took only 11 days for the group to raise the $4,000 necessary to pay the expenses to get Liam and his family to Nashville for a Predators game.
That game will be Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Traynor is already in town and on Thursday, he got to see his good friend again.
Photo via Liam Traynor (@sledhockeyboy), who captioned it "Best Buddies always."
The meeting is meaningful for Del Zotto as well, as he shared with Diamond.
“He and his family talk about what an inspiration I've been to him, but for me, it is the other way around,” Del Zotto said. “I am just so happy to be able to call him my best friend.”