For Zoe Laming, a junior at Minnesota’s Gentry Academy, Wilson is literally the reason why she first started playing hockey.
To honor Wilson’s influence on her budding sports career, Zoe had the Capitals forward put on her goalie mask for her first season of high school hockey.
It’s the first time (that we know of) that Wilson has ever been honored on a player’s bucket.
“I put Tom on my mask because if it weren’t for him I wouldn’t be playing hockey,” Zoe said in an interview. “When Tom played for the Plymouth Whalers, I was living in the next town over in Michigan. My dad was a hockey fan growing up so he took me to one game and I fell in love with the sport instantly. We soon became season ticket holders and went to every game.”
The Plymouth Whalers are a defunct junior hockey team that used to be a part of the Ontario Hockey League. In its final decade of existence, the organization churned out NHL veterans like Wilson, Connor Carrick, Tyler Seguin, and Rikard Rakell.
Zoe participated in Plymouth’s Learn To Skate/Learn To Play programs. Tom was Zoe’s teacher several times on the ice. Feeling his genuine support and kindness, Zoe gravitated to Tom while other kids were enamored by other players.
“I sent her to the first session with a street hockey stick, he ran into the locker room grabbed a player stick, cut it to size, and just like that – he became her favorite player,” Zoe’s dad, Gerald Laming, said. “After that, she was hooked”
“I joined the Learn to Play program because I wanted to be like Tom when I was older,” Zoe said. “Tom spent a lot of one on one time with me and I still remember our conversations. I still remember the day the Whalers skated with the Learn To Play kids and when the coach said to partner up with a Whaler and Tom said before anyone could think or say anything ‘I pick Zoe.’ Or the time when I met his dad, or when I had to tell him we were moving out of state the year.”
Tom never forgot about his time training Zoe and years later they ran into each other again.
“We got tickets when Tom played his first game in Minnesota against the Wild,” Zoe said. “During warmups, he threw a puck over the glass to me. Some guy reached over my arms and took it and Tom started hitting the glass telling the guy to give it to me.”
During another instance, the Laming family took a family trip to DC and visited MedStar Capitals Iceplex to see the Caps practice.
“Tom stayed after practice to talk to me and gave me his hockey stick,” Zoe said.
The Lamings moved to Minnesota the same year Tom was permanently called up to Washington. Zoe has stuck with hockey and become a talented goaltender. Her father rewarded her with a special gift before the season.
“Once she got here, she played hockey in our new town and took to the goalie position fast,” Zoe’s dad said. “This year, she is heading into her junior year — the first year of high school hockey in Minnesota — and I promised her a mask. She got it wrapped and came up with the design herself. Michigan and Minnesota on one side, her and Tom on the other.”
The shell of the mask was made by Warwick and the wrap was done by San Antonio Signs and Graphics.
Wilson’s name is located on the backplate along with the Whalers logo.
So far this season, Zoe has a 6-1 record in eight appearances and put up a 1.80 goals-against average, a .881 save percentage, and one shutout (see her full stats here).
“A lot of people hate on him for his actions on the ice, but what still stands out to me is the way he treated me as a young kid and tween,” Zoe said. “I believe that he has not only influenced my hockey career but who I am as a person by showing me what a huge impact you can have on someone’s life. I still want to make him proud, even if we don’t have contact. I still want to be like Tom when I’m older.”
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