CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- To say 11-year-old Zach Bennett had a backstage pass to the Charlotte Checkers game would be an understatement.
Zach, who suffers from neurofibromatosis and rides in a motorized wheelchair to accommodate his amputated legs, is parochially one of the team.
The 11-year-old met the men who now comprise the Charlotte Checkers when they were the Albany River Rats in New York. The Bennetts are were season ticket holders--huge hockey fans-- in New York.
The players took a liking to Zach, and visited him in the hospital when he was ill. The relationship grew. Nowadays, they call him "Bug." Wednesday, they flew him in (with his parents and sister too) for a five-day trip.
More than just a visit though, this trip is about helping the Bennett family follow the team here. For some time, they've felt that medical call in Albany is inadequate for Zach's needs.
"We were contemplating it back and forth and when the team said they were sold and they were headed down to Charlotte, that was kind of a no brainer for us," Zach's dad Randy said.
That kind of move would be expensive for the Bennetts, which is why the Checkers stepped in.
Friday night, Zach and his little sister Jenna walked out onto center ice with the team. Then alongside NASCAR driver Joey Logano and the Checkers team president, they dropped the puck to start the game.
"It was amazing," Zach said after wards. He says he can't wait to move "because I'll be close to the guys."
The Checker plan to donate the proceeds from a jersey auction to the family.
Just in time Friday, as the Bennetts stood on the side of the rink, they got a phone from their real estate agent back home.
"A lady that came and saw the house at Christmas time," Randy said with a smile, "she wants to take a second look."
His wife burst into tears.