It's been just a few months since Bobby Ackerman lost his daughter Madison in a tragic accident, when she suffocated in her sleep. She was only 4 months old.
But when Madison was born back in December, her proud papa, a lifelong hockey fanatic, had imagined a very different future for the two of them. He couldn't wait until she was a little older and could come along with him to hockey games, cheering on his favorite team, the New York Rangers. His first gift to her? A Henrik Lundqvist jersey, of course; and his word that if the Rangers made it to the Stanley Cup this year, his little girl would be right by his side. (Even if it did mean she'd be just 6 months old.)
Sadly, though, Madison passed before that dream could become a reality.
In the days and weeks since, the grieving dad has tried to comfort himself by immersing himself in his favorite sport and trying to carry on the memory of his daughter wherever he goes.
So when Ackerman went to a Rangers game last month, he brought with him a very special sign he had made:
Needless to say, it touched a lot of people's hearts. And when the above photo went viral, it caught the attention of the Shawn Revell — fellow hockey fanatic, new dad, and, as it happens, administrator of a Rangers Facebook fan page.
Moved by the image, Revell got an idea: If the Rangers were playing, what if he could raise enough money to get Ackerman a ticket to the Stanley Cup, after all?
It wasn't long before Revell started a GoFundMe page, with the goal of reaching $3,000 for the ticket. To his amazement, his goal was met (and exceeded by $500) within the first 24 hours of being posted. While the donors included many fellow Rangers fans, Revell says hockey fans from all over came together to lend their support, including fans of the Devils, Islanders and Kings. Even a pretty famous (but shall remain nameless) individual who Revell would only say was "popular in the New York area," chipped in $1,500.
And so, Ackerman made it to the Stanley Cup, at last, sharing this memorable photo from his seat in Madison Square Garden:
There, he cheered on his favorite team while clutching his "Madison" sign and Lundqvist jersey. He even was given a new one, which bears Madison's name on it.
All in all, the day was beyond moving. “I still can't find the words,” he later told The Star-Ledger. “I'm just your average guy who loves hockey. The hockey community is the best thing in the world. Without it, I don't know where I'd be right now.”