Ducks name fan battling cancer to Opening Night roster

Anaheim Ducks right wing Corey Perry, left, and center Rickard Rakell, right, assist Katie Hawley as she is introduced as the “21st Duck” during opening night. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

When the Anaheim Ducks opened their 2017-18 at home on Thursday night, coach Randy Carlyle made a late addition to his roster to counter the strengths of the visiting Arizona Coyotes.

Katie Hawley, 17, who has been diagnosed with cancer three different times, was introduced pre-game as the “21st Duck” along with the rest of the opening-night lineup. Created in 2015, the “21st Duck” initiative reserves a spot on the team’s opening-night roster for ‘a fan who exhibits great perseverance, character, courage and inspiration.’

[Follow Yahoo Canada Sports on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter]

A diehard Ducks fan, Hawley has been fighting cancer since age nine. When she was diagnosed for a third time in 2016, she told her parents she, “didn’t want to fight anymore” but after striking up a friendship with her favourite player, Rickard Rakell, now she is the one inspiring others to never give up.

Katie has beat the disease twice and endured at least a dozen surgeries, two dozen chemotherapy sessions, 30 radiation treatments, 80 scans, and 40 blood transfusions. She plays a role as a ‘Courageous Kid’ with the Jessie Rees Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting children fighting cancer.

After the emotional moment on Thursday night, Anaheim stumbled out of the gate, falling behind 4-1 but stormed back, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Coyotes 5-4. Fittingly, 24-year-old Rakell scored the game-winner with 3:30 left to play and after the game, the young Swede joined Katie for some post-game reaction.

Katie, still undergoing treatement, plans to attend college next year.

More hockey on Yahoo Canada Sports