It’s fitting that the orange-hued, googly-eyed mascot once written off as nightmare fuel made a 7-year-old fan’s dream come true.
Gritty, the idiosyncratic mascot of the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers, made a rare off-ice appearance Tuesday to surprise Caiden O’Rourke, a double amputee with two rare conditions, after he was fitted with a custom prosthetic leg adorned with Gritty’s unblinking face.
Caiden, who’s a few days shy of 8, was born with ectrodactyly, a bone deformity that means he’s missing some bones and digits on his hands and feet, and amniotic band syndrome, which resulted in the amputation of his lower right leg in the womb, Shriners Hospital for Children in Philadelphia said in a statement.
As a young and growing double amputee, he’s regularly fitted for new prosthetics, the hospital said. And as a true Philadelphian, he prefers them peppered with the logos of his favorite local teams.
When the Flyers’ resident monster caught wind of Caiden’s request for his new left leg – orange, of course, covered in miniature Grittys – he waddled on in to Caiden’s hospital room, flanked by two Flyers cheerleaders.
Mouth agape, Caiden hugged his hero, who gave him a custom jersey. He showed Gritty the above-knee prosthetic on his right leg, covered in the Flyers’ logo.
Gritty, it seemed, was wowed – though his googly eyes made it hard to tell for sure.
Prosthetics haven’t slowed Caiden for a second. He’s a hockey and baseball player who keeps up with his two older brothers.
He still goes to daily therapy to gain full use of his right hand, which was reconstructed with two new digits in a 2014 foot-to-hand transplant, the hospital said.
Gritty, a furry monster who’s mute save for some squeaky hands, was coaxed out of hiding when the Flyers renovated their arena, the team said in his profile.
He debuted as the team mascot in September to some derision for his wide-eyed stare and frightening furry mane. But a lot’s changed since then: He was crowned the NHL’s fan-favorite mascot last week.