January 9, 2014 | Volume 119, Issue No. 2

Danny Lilya writes winning essay

Boy's love of hockey wins him box seats, visit with Wild mascot

It was delayed for two years, but Danny Lilya, 12, finally won a hockey essay contest. He completed and submitted the essay for a contest in 2012, but the National Hockey League strike delayed the award.

courtesy Sheryl Lilya
Brothers Michael, in blue, and Danny, in white, sitting on their sleds after their teams (Moose Lake Bantam A and Minnesota Wild Youth) scrimmaged each other.

Danny received his prizes on Dream Day at the Minnesota Wild game on Sunday, December 29, at the Excel Energy Center in St. Paul.

In the essay, Danny wrote:

"I love playing hockey for the Minnesota Sled Hockey Association because I just love hockey! I am 10 and a paraplegic, and I have played for four years. I am the only student, ever, to start school permanently in a wheelchair in Moose Lake. Hockey is for everyone, and my parents drive me for two hours every Sunday so I can practice, and then two hours home. Last year the Disabled Hockey Festival was in Blaine, and I got to go, and this spring it will be in Texas. My team is renting a coach bus and my mom is going with me! My team is AWESOME!!!

"We did get to play a scrimmage during a MN Wild game a couple months ago, and I got the only goal! I know what fame feels like now. The horn blew, the lights flashed and the crowd was yelling! It was amazing! I would like to scrimmage against the MN Wild! We maybe wouldn't win but that would be fun!

"I would like my essay picked so I can let my brother's team go instead though. He plays for the Moose Lake Area Hockey Association. He is on the PeeWee team, and they are really good players! The MN Wild game is on January 10, and that is his 12th birthday. He would be so excited if I could win this for his team on his birthday!

"Thank you, Danny Lilya

"Minnesota Sled Hockey Association – Youth Team – MN IceHawks"

This year, Danny is a player on the Competitive Youth Team from the Minnesota Sled Association Hockey Team. His older brother, Michael, 14, is a player on the Bantam A team from Moose Lake.

"We went down to the Excel Energy Center and got to watch the Minnesota Wild and the New York Islanders practice," said Danny in a recent interview. "I got to meet Nordy, the Wild mascot, and Zach Parise, my favorite player."

Danny's sled hockey team also had an hour of scrimmage against Michael's Bantam A team, who had to also play on sleds.

"They had a big fake fight out there on the ice," said Sheryl, Danny's mother. "The two brothers, Michael and Danny, were fist punching each other. It was super funny. Every kid out there had a smile on his face. It was nice for the bantam team to see that, even though the kids that can't walk use a wheelchair, they can still play the game.

"I think that all of the bantam boys have a new appreciation for the abilities that they have."

One of the prizes that Danny won was a box at the game for 50 people, including drinks and snacks. That's where Nordy came to see him.

The Minnesota Wild is the sponsor of the sled hockey team, the Wild.

Danny had another special moment in the spotlight back in November when his team traveled to Winnipeg.

"His team won first place for the entire tournament," said Sheryl. "Danny got the winning goal in a shootout during the second overtime."

Danny's future hopes are to go to Boston for the nationals in April.

Danny is also on a team for the Rolling Twins, a wheelchair softball team, sponsored by the Minnesota Twins. And he helps with the Rebels football team.

As he watched his brother, Nick, at his graduation last spring, Danny saw that other students went up for awards for three sports, two sports and one sport.

"He wants to have a sport, too," said Sheryl. "The school is looking into get a track chair for him. We have looked into getting him a chair also so he can be in Grandma's Half Marathon in the Wheelchair Division. We'll find out in the spring if we get a grant."

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