TRAVERSE CITY — Matthew Litchfield, keeping warm in his Detroit Red Wings sweatshirt, watched from along the boards Thursday morning as the team opened training camp at Centre ICE.
The Traverse City 9-year-old was a honorary Red Wing on this day. He and his family guests of coach Mike Babcock.
It was a day the Red Wings, along with staff and volunteers at the training camp, wanted to make special for a boy who has endured so much the last 10 months. Matthew was diagnosed with a brain tumor last October — on Halloween — and has spent most of those 10 months in treatment at the University of Michigan Hospital. He’s now home and in hospice care.
“The prognosis is not good,” his mother, Heather, said. “He’s essentially terminal. The doctors told us to bring him home and let him enjoy the rest of his months. Who knows how long? I don’t think we’re seeking any further treatment. It had progressed quite a bit since he’s been through all his chemotherapy and radiation. There’s not much else they can do. This is it.”
Heather held Matthew as he watched practice. He’s now unable to walk. But he seemed to be in his element Thursday, watching and meeting his hockey heroes.
“It’s nice to get a break from everything and come out, have some fun and forget about all the everyday worries and things we’re going through right now,” his father, Bryan, said.
Matthew was able to meet, among others, Jimmy Howard, Chris Chelios, Kirk Maltby, Mickey Redmond, Niklas Kronwall, Jiri Fisher and Babcock.
Babcock made it a point to introduce himself to the family before practice, and chatting with Matthew for several minutes.
“It was exciting because he knew who we were,” Bryan said. “That’s overwhelming as hockey fans.”