The Columbus Blue Jackets, in the midst of a playoff push, have adopted Ryan Salmons as one of their own, complete with a contract and terms that would score him bonus incentives.
Salmons, 19, knows hockey inside and out -- from strategies of the game to trading locker room barbs -- but he isn't a player. He's a fan whose time to enjoy hockey is dwindling.
Salmons was diagnosed with cancer less than a year ago. The diagnosis wasn't good at the time, and in recent months, a brain tumor has worsened.
"Things are getting tougher," Salmons said. "I can really tell. I'm in a lot more pain."
The Blue Jackets, anxious to find way for Salmons to focus on quality of life, decided to make him one of their own. Last week the team left the rink and went to Salmons' house to deliver a one-day player contract.
"It was the real contract that we sign," said Blue Jackets forward Jason Chimera. "It was the real addendum sheet (and) he had to hit a bonus for two playoff tickets for the first playoff game."
Since then, Nationwide Arena has become Salmons' second home.
"I can't put into words what this team has done for me and my drive and my morale," he said. "It really does mean a lot to me."
Chimera and Jackets' center Manny Malholtra have become Salmons' closest friends on the team.
"It's a privilege to know him and be around him," Malholtra said. "I'm lucky to be in this situation; to meet a kid like him."
Chimera said it was no secret that Salmon was having an impact on the Blue Jackets team.
"If this kid can fight through that, we can sure make the playoffs and do a big run," Chimera said. "Guys want to get there for him."
Brad Salmons, Ryan's father, said he believed the bond between his son and the Blue Jackets could lead the team to their first playoff appearance.
"I truly believe that Ryan and his drive to be here for the playoffs is pushing a lot of players to go that extra step," he said.
Still, even with the excitement of a playoff run, the Salmons family deals with looming reminders of Ryan's health.
"The hardest conversation I've had with him was yesterday," Brad Salmons said. "We actually had to talk about the burial, what his wishes were."
In the meantime Salmons' focuses on the Blue Jackets, his new friends, and the playoffs, which until this year seemed to be unattainable for Columbus.
"I'm trying, I'm fighting and sticking around with them," Salmons said. "Giving them that push, hopefully."
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