NHL Player Reaches Out To 11-Year-Old Kid Bullied By Opposing Fans


John Tavares

Jake Lotocki is an 11-year-old fan of the New York Islanders, but because he lives in Winnipeg, he rarely gets to see the team he loves play in person. That changed last week, when Lotocki’s parents took him to the MTS Centre to see the Isles play his hometown team, the Winnipeg Jets. At the game, though, Lotocki and his Islanders jersey drew the ire of some drunk and unruly Jets fans who didn’t like that he was supporting the opponent in their backyard.

The Winnipeg Sun told Lotocki’s story this week: he was so distraught by the behavior that on the way out of the arena, he wadded up his shirt — a #91 John Tavares jersey — and hid it to avoid further abuse. It’s an awful story on fan behavior that is unfortunately all too common at sporting events, and it could have ended there. But it didn’t.

Tavares, the Islanders’ center who’s out for the rest of the season rehabbing the knee he injured while helping Canada win Olympic gold in Sochi, heard the story. Through the team, Tavares reached out to Lotocki. The Sun has the details (via Sports Illustrated):

[Tavares] immediately called the team’s director of communications, Kimber Auerbach, who was with the Islanders as they played in Vancouver.

“He called me during the game and told me he wanted to do something for Jake,” Auerbach told the Sun, Wednesday.

After reading how Lotocki had to leave the arena with his jersey crumpled up so people wouldn’t see it, Tavares suggested sending the boy a new one, autographed by his favourite player.

Auerbach called the Lotocki home Tuesday night and told Jake’s mother of the team’s plans.

“It’s amazing,” Sue Lotocki said. “It’s quite impressive that somebody who was just Jake’s hockey hero turned out to be a true-life hero for him. He really appreciates him making the effort to reach out to Jake in that way. It means a lot to him.”

The Isles don’t return to Winnipeg this season, but they promised Jake that he could join Tavares and the rest of the team for a pre-game skate-around when they come back to the MTS Centre next year. The Jets, for their part, have told the family that they’re working to ensure such behavior doesn’t happen again. Fans can be terrible. At least, in this instance, their awful behavior brought out the best Tavares and the Islanders organization.