Last April, the NHL community mourned after the Humboldt Broncos got in a traffic accident. The bus full of young teenaged players was on its way to a game against the Nipawin Hawks when it was T-boned by a transport truck. 16 people, most of whom were players, died.
Broncos player Layne Matechuk was one of 13 lucky souls to survive the crash but suffered a severe brain injury. During Layne’s rehabilitation that continues to this day, the Pittsburgh Penguins, his favorite team, gave the Saskatoon native the opportunity to go to any Pens game he wanted to meet his favorite player, Sidney Crosby. Layne ultimately picked the March 12 game against the Washington Capitals so that his sister Carley, who he is very close with, could also see the Caps and her favorite player, Alex Ovechkin, play. The game was a dream come true for the siblings. Ovechkin scored his 1200th point that night.
Six months later, Carley revealed that she got Ovechkin’s signature from that day tattooed on her ankle in a stunning tribute.
“I became a Capitals and Ovechkin fan when I was eleven, and my younger brother loved the Penguins and Crosby,” Carley recounted in an interview. “So there was always a huge rivalry. I watched every game and if I couldn’t watch it I would listen to the radio on my phone so I wouldn’t have to miss anything. Everyone in our small town knew me as the Caps fan, and I always said if I ever met Ovi I would get his signature tattooed.
“While we had the opportunity to meet Crosby and tour the rink, I was able to watch the morning skate from the bench,” she added. “I was surprised with a short visit with Ovechkin as well as Chandler Stephenson, who is from Saskatoon as well. I was so nervous and excited I hardly remember to this day what I said, but I now have a signed stick and jersey. As soon as he left I turned to my mom and said ‘I need my tattoo!’”
Carley used her Capitals jersey Ovechkin signed as the prototype for the tattoo. “I had the ink done at Gaslight Tattoo Parlour in Regina, Saskatchewan. I did a walk-in because I was too excited to wait,” she said.
Once it was done, Carley was thrilled that she stayed true on a promise she made to herself 12 years ago. Now it has even more special significance because of her brother.
Two months before the Capitals game and nine months after suffering his injury, Layne incredibly returned to the ice for the first time since the accident, inspiring hockey fans across the world.
— Carley Matechuk (@carleymatechuk) January 8, 2019
Brother and sis also attended a wedding in Humboldt together and shared a dance.
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“Layne is the strongest and most inspiring person I know,” Carley said. “He is trying to make the best of an awful situation. He has goals set for himself and his future and he consistently works hard at therapy and at home to achieve them. His speech has come a very long way, but he is still working on that as well as regaining his physical strength and movement. He had to relearn everything from walking to talking so everything is a work in progress. We constantly see improvements, and things are always changing.
“He is a hockey player through and through, and although you can’t see that on the ice anymore, it is shown through his work ethic, drive, and determination.”
From the hashtags and gifts to the messages and tributes, Carley has been blown away by how much the community has rallied around the team.
“The support has been amazing,” Carley said.
And now one of those moments will live with her forever on her ankle.
Photos courtesy of Carley Matechuk
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