Jeanne Earle can't explain her son Shaelin's fascination with the Ducks and why a kid from Beverly, Mass., would root for a hockey team based in Anaheim.
"He's a major sports fan and he really doesn't like any New England teams, despite the fact that we live here," she said. "He's not a Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins fan."
The Ducks have rewarded the devotion shown by Shaelin, who has cystic fibrosis and requested to see a Ducks game when he was granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish foundation. They gave the him royal treatment and a number of gifts earlier this season when he visited Anaheim, but he was kept out of the locker room as a precaution because of an ongoing mumps outbreak and couldn't meet the players.
On Thursday, Shaelin, who just turned 14, finally got to meet players and visit the locker room, where the Ducks had set up a stall for him with his own nameplate. They also set him up with Ducks gear and let him sit in on team meetings and share their lunch after the morning skate.
"The whole experience has been unbelievable," Jeanne Earle said of her son, who records most Ducks games on DVR and watches highlights while he does his daily respiratory therapy.
"We didn't know this would happen, initially. They flew us out, there might be a minor, little problem. But they have been so gracious in everything that they did to make up for that."
Corey Perry and Cam Fowler, Shaelin's favorite players, made sure he would be part of the team Thursday before the Ducks faced the Bruins at TD Garden.
"Unfortunately it didn't happen in Anaheim. It was a difficult thing," Perry said. "But here in Boston, where he's growing up, it's a special thing."
And like many NHL teams that provide memorable experiences for needy or ailing kids, the Ducks made sure Shaelin felt special.
"First thing when we walked through the door everybody was standing up meeting him and shaking his hand. Those things, I'm sure, he didn't expect," Perry said. "Anytime you put a smile on somebody's face — it doesn't matter who it is or what it's for — it just feels good inside and really makes you happy.'