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Wish come true

Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 12:30 PM / Features
By Derek Jory
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Wish come true

Nothing against Cory Schneider, but Frankie Kolniak and his dad Frank were both hoping to see Roberto Luongo take to the net for the Vancouver Canucks at some point during Tuesday night’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks.

For that to happen Schneider would have had to have been pulled, which would have delighted both Frankie, in Vancouver to take in the Canucks game and meet his idol Luongo thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and his dad, a lifelong Blackhawks fan.

Schneider was brilliant backing the Canucks to a 3-2 overtime win so Frankie had to settle for seeing Luongo post-game.

And it was too bad, so sad for dad.

The end result, in all honesty, took a backseat for Frankie. He was hoping for a Canucks win, but just knowing that he would be face-to-face with Luongo, after all the suffering the 13-year-old had been through, had him on cloud nine since the family of four arrived in Vancouver from Chicago three days prior.

Frankie is a man of few words, he’s quiet, calm and reserved; he’s also a fighter.

In November of 2010 the then 11-year-old took to the ice with his hockey team on the main rink at Allstate Arena, home of the Chicago Wolves. Frankie was on his way for a loose puck when he went down untouched at the blueline.

His mom Maria knew what had happened, she’d seen it before, just never to this extent.

Frankie was having a seizure.

“He went down, got up, then he just wasn’t there, you could tell something was wrong,” said Maria during Vancouver’s pre-game skate Tuesday. “His stick was upside down and people were laughing because they didn’t know. It was hard for us to watch. We knew he was going through it.”

The incident was the last straw for the family. Frankie was no stranger to seizures, but he had never suffered one this bad and after extensive testing, doctors linked his epilepsy to a lesion inside the back of his head.

Surgery was the only answer and nothing was guaranteed. The Make-A-Wish Foundation stepped in to help in any way possible and Frankie was asked what his top three wishes would be.

1. Meet Roberto Luongo

That was it.

“I was watching TV one day and the Canucks were playing, I don’t remember who, and there was something different about Luongo that caught my eye,” smiled Frankie. “I started following the Canucks because of him.”

It’s been all Canucks and all Luongo, all the time for Frankie ever since.

Prior to going into surgery on May 12, 2011, Frankie was told his wish would be granted, he’d be flown from Chicago to Vancouver to watch the Canucks face the Blackhawks and post-game he’d meet Luongo.

When Luongo stepped out of the Canucks gym after a post-game workout Tuesday, Frankie was in disbelief. The pair swapped stories for 10 minutes; Luongo signed a game-used stick, hat and hockey card for Frankie, who presented Luongo with a framed hockey photo of himself.

It gets better.

Vancouver plays in Chicago on March 21st and Luongo invited the family to attend the game and again meet up afterward.

The smile Frankie had warmed his mom’s heart, erasing a lot of the pain the family has been through the last few years.

“I never thought we’d get here when we were going through that and just wondering if he’d even make it through the night,” said Maria. “Then for him to find out the day before surgery was just unbelievable."

Frankie’s symptoms are in remission and he’s back playing hockey, just at a different position. Because of Luongo, Frankie is now a goalie and he loves every minute of it.

“It made me really upset when I wasn’t able to play,” said Frankie. “After my surgery it was hard getting back into it, I didn’t even know if I’d be able to skate. I had a few spills, now things are back to normal.”

Hardly.

Frankie’s once Luongo-less room is now wall-to-wall Lu, much to the chagrin of his dad, the Blackhawks fan.

Again, too bad, so sad, dad.