When Matt Cooke found out he was being replaced on the Penguins’ top line on Tuesday he wasn’t the least bit offended. In fact, he welcomed his replacement with open arms…literally. The gritty veteran scooped 8-year-old Jacob Anderson into his arms, and carried him onto the Mellon Arena ice at the Penguins’ morning skate. Anderson, with the help of the Penguins and Make-A-Wish Foundation, fulfilled his dream to be a "Penguin for a Day."
The Penguins signed the young forward to a one-day deal and the Connellsville native was granted the 10,000th wish from the Greater Pennsylvania and Southern West Virginia Chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The whiteboard in the Penguins’ locker room indicated that Anderson will replace Cooke on the top line with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Cooke wasn’t too put off by the replacement.
“Do I mind? Not at all,” Cooke said. “It’s a chance in a lifetime for me, and it is for him. Obviously, he’ll relish it.”
Jacob’s long-eye lashed, dark brown eyes lit up as Cooke carried him onto the Mellon Arena ice and zipped the blond-headed boy around the rink during the final minutes of the practice. The special moment brought tears to the eyes of Jacob’s mom, Crystal.
“For Cooke to do that, he’s top notch,” Jacob’s dad, Ronnie said.
Cooke carried Jacob over to the bench to meet head coach Michel Therrien and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. He also skated the youngster over to Crosby who chatted with his new linemate.
“We have to really look at when we were kids - to get that opportunity, to be able to come out and hang out with a bunch of players, I know that I would have been in awe,” Cooke said. “So, I was just trying to make it as much fun and as memorable as possible for him.”
Cooke then carried Jacob to the net where Fleury was blocking shots. Jacob demonstrated his skills and took a few shots on the goalie.
“It was cool, yeah, (Cooke) showed me how to shoot the puck.” Jacob said. “It took me four shots.”
On Jacob’s fourth shot, cheers wafted to the ceiling when he slipped one past Fleury.
“I gave it my all,” Fleury said. “I didn’t want him to get much on me and show him who’s the king on the ice. I think I did (well). He still scored, so I think we’re even. He did a good job.”
Jacob’s day started at 10 a.m. when he arrived at Mellon Arena with his parents and 10-year-old sister, Taia, in tow. They entire clan was decked in Penguins gear. Jacob was wearing a powder-blue alternate jersey with camouflage pants. His blonde-headed sister wore a Malkin home jersey.
The siblings were almost inseparable during Jacob’s day with the Penguins. Jacob looked to his older sister throughout the day to soak-in the experience with him. The duo even sat between their parents, in seats on the glass located just behind the Penguins’ bench, during the team’s showdown with Carolina that evening.
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