On the heels of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ good news/bad news night, with a great win over the Boston Bruins accompanied by the bad news that Ilya Samsonov would be down with a knee injury for gosh knows how long, there’s some space in the Maple Leafs’ world for a little good news.
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Rodion Amirov was on the minds of Maple Leafs’ players and fans yesterday. Amirov was a huge part – even if he were back home in Russia continuing to recover – of yesterday’s Maple Leafs’ Hockey Fights Cancer Night.
Amirov Diagnosed with a Brain Tutor
Amirov was the team’s first pick (15th overall) during the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Early last season, the Maple Leafs released the news that doctors had discovered the young prospect had a brain tumor while Amirov was undergoing treatment for another and unrelated injury. Amirov received treatment for the tumor in Germany and his hockey shut down for the rest of last season.
At the time, for as young as he was, Amirov took the long and positive view. He told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, “I want to stay positive, and I want people to think positively about me. There are many other people that have their own sicknesses or illnesses. I want to show by example that I can give people hope.”
He’s obviously correct. Most of us have been touched by cancer, which was the point of yesterday’s lavender jerseys.
Thoughts of Amirov Emerged from Yesterday’s Game
That was last February; since then, Amirov has completed four rounds of chemotherapy. Currently, as noted, the 21-year-old is back home in Russia, continuing his recovery.
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Keefe mentioned Amirov yesterday to the media, noting that “It hits a little bit differently with our connection with Rodion Amirov and his fight that he’s in.”
As part of Saturday’s Hockey Fights Cancer Night, before the Bruins’ game, the Maple Leafs wore special lavender jerseys and put lavender tape on their sticks during warmups in support of the cause.
Amirov Meets Ovechkin Through Samsonov
In October, Amirov spent a few weeks with the Maple Leafs to get a taste of “the NHL experience.” One of the highlights for me was his inclusion in the pregame introductions for the October 13 home opener against the Washington Capitals. There he stood behind the bench with other Maple Leafs’ players who were on injured reserve as he was introduced to the cheering Toronto crowd.
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Before that game, Amirov made a new acquaintance when he met with NHL great and fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin. Amirov was introduced to Ovechkin by Maple Leafs’ goalie Ilya Samsonov, who had played three NHL seasons with the Capitals.
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The three Russian hockey players spent about 10 minutes together at Scotiabank Arena, and Ovechkin offered his help to Amirov in any way he could.
Later, Samsonov (who helped arrange the meeting) noted that “Alex is a nice guy.” Samsonov shared that Ovechkin “came right away to meet with Rodion. He said, ‘Good luck, best of luck and Rodion, if you need anything, just call me.”
Finally, Samsonov noted that “I think that’s nice for Rodion, and he really likes how ‘Ovi’ plays. So now Rodion has Ovi’s number and if not, he texts me and I’ll get it figured out with Ovi.”
From Both a Human and a Hockey Level, Amirov Is a Good News Story
Amirov’s story is really good news, both from a human and a hockey level. There’s no word whether Amirov will play any time soon. But the great part of this story is that, so far, the treatment has worked. Although no one knows if Amirov faces clear sailing, the signs are positive.
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Yesterday, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe, sounding more like a father than a coach, noted that:
“You talk about competing, here’s a guy who has been through four rounds of chemo to be here and still has a big smile on his face in the facility every single day. He’s got the ultimate battle ahead of him here and he’s right in the thick of it, but he’s here and enjoying his time here and we’re enjoying having him around.”
Pretty human stuff. Good luck, Rodion Amirov. Maple Leafs’ fans hope to see you soon in the Blue and White uniform.