Teams that win championships often have some kind of X-factor, something indescribable and maybe even magical.
In St. Louis, Missouri - where the hockey team just won the Stanley Cup - they call her Laila.
The St. Louis Blues improbably went from worst to first this season, finally beating the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the National Hockey League finals. Laila Anderson, an 11-year-old superfan who has a rare immune system disease, had for years been a steady presence at the Blues home arena until she fell mysteriously ill and was diagnosed with the rare disorder hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis.
The Immune Deficiency Foundation lists her condition among the more than 350 known primary immunodeficiencies. After a bone marrow transplant, she had to stay home to avoid infections while she recovered.
Finally, she was able to make it back to the arena and helped propel the Blues to a victorious finish. And when it came down to that last game on June 12, the team invited the girl and her mother to fly up to Boston. There, the Blues won the final game and Laila, a long way from home, found herself down on the ice celebrating with the team. Watch her getting interviewed after the big win.
As is tradition, she kissed the giant, coveted silver cup and now a petition drive is underway to add her name to it, along with the members of the championship team. The NHL can make exceptions in special circumstances.
“I believe Laila Anderson has earned a place on Lord Stanley’s Cup alongside the rest of the St. Louis Blues players,” wrote John Mueller, who started the petition on Change.org. It has nearly 15,000 signatures.
Laila took part in the championship parade and even has her own bobblehead, the proceeds from which will help support St. Louis Children’s Hospital, where she has been receiving treatment. Her bobblehead holds a sign she brought to one of the playoff games, which says “I’m here boys. Let’s do this.”
Laila struck up friendships, in particular, with players Alexander Steen, whom she interviewed for the local news, and Colton Parayko, who wears a Laila Strong bracelet.
Parayko told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “The thing she taught me is – just be a warrior.”