Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Ducks’ 21st man is their toughest fighter yet

Must read

  • Trent Sullivan, center, stands with Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler, left,...

    Trent Sullivan, center, stands with Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler, left, and defenseman Radko Gudas, right, as he is introduced to crowd as this year’s 21st Duck before the start of the 2023 opening game in Anaheim on Sunday, October 15, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Trent Sullivan, center, stands with Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler, left,...

    Trent Sullivan, center, stands with Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler, left, and defenseman Radko Gudas, right, as he is introduced to crowd as this year’s 21st Duck before the start of the 2023 opening game in Anaheim on Sunday, October 15, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Ducks right wing Brett Leason, left, collides with Carolina goaltender...

    Ducks right wing Brett Leason, left, collides with Carolina goaltender Antti Raanta in the 2023 opening game in Anaheim on Sunday, October 15, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Ducks defenseman Pavel Mintyukov, left, celebrates with Jackson LaCombe after...

    Ducks defenseman Pavel Mintyukov, left, celebrates with Jackson LaCombe after Mintyukov’s goal in the first period against Carolina in the 2023 opening game in Anaheim on Sunday, October 15, 2023. It was Mintyukov’s first goal for the Ducks. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Ducks goaltender Lukas Dostal deflects a shot away from the...

    Ducks goaltender Lukas Dostal deflects a shot away from the goal by Carolina in the first period in the 2023 opening game in Anaheim on Sunday, October 15, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Ducks defenseman Jackson LaCombe, right, controls the puck in front...

    Ducks defenseman Jackson LaCombe, right, controls the puck in front of Carolina center Sebastian Aho in the 2023 opening game in Anaheim on Sunday, October 15, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Ducks defenseman Pavel Mintyukov (34) is congratulated at the bench...

    Ducks defenseman Pavel Mintyukov (34) is congratulated at the bench after he scored his goal against Carolina in the first period in the 2023 opening game in Anaheim on Sunday, October 15, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

ANAHEIM –– Thirty years ago, the Ducks were expanding into a warm-weather market as its second franchise, and few then could have anticipated the staying power in their community and success on the ice they have fostered since.

But this season’s 21st Duck could teach all 20 of his new teammates and every other Ducks alumnus plenty about persistence, dedication and beating the longest of odds repeatedly.

Trent Sullivan, who also turned 30 this year, received an infant heart transplant and largely pessimistic prognoses that indicated he might live until adolescence at most. Today, he’s still standing, still smiling and creating joy for other children affected by pediatric diseases through his foundation, Grants Wishes, named for his brother, whom he lost to a rare pediatric cancer when Grant was just six years old and Trent was just nine.

“I’m very grateful for 21 years of doing all this and now getting nominated by the Ducks and having my charity be part of all this, it really means a lot,” said Sullivan, who already has the hockey-ized sobriquet Sully. “The day that I found out I just bawled my eyes out, because I’m doing it for my brother.”

Sullivan said the experience thus far had been “mind-blowing,” and that it still felt surreal.

“I’m still trying to process the whole deal, like ‘Oh, my God, I get to go on the ice, everyone gets to see me,’ so it’s really cool,” he said.

Such an emotional fan would naturally have a favorite player who was every bit as passionate about hockey as he has been about helping others, so it should come as little surprise that Sullivan’s pick was Teemu Selanne. Selanne, now retired, surprised Sullivan by popping into his suite during a preseason match this fall.

“The fact that Teemu sat down next to me was like ‘Oh, hey, man how’s it going?’ Like it was no big deal or anything, it was like old friends seeing each other,” Sullivan said.

In a sense, the meeting was exactly that way, as Sullivan and Selanne had a previous encounter, by chance, at a car show.

“When we met up again, he showed me the same picture two years later, he still had it on his phone,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan, an Anaheim native now living in Arizona, has spent plenty of his own life battling maladies and recovering from serious procedures: he’s also had a pacemaker implanted, undergone chemotherapy and been the recipient of a successful kidney transplant.

Since then, he attended and then became deeply involved with an event that gives teens who underwent kidney transplants and other such renal treatments to attend a prom night especially for them, among numerous other initiatives for youths who have surmounted adversity from a health perspective. It’s one of many wide-ranging ways Sullivan in which Sullivan and his mother Lori create an impact, with Grants Wishes being one that has granted the wishes of more than 300 children facing unconscionable difficulties.

“We live a different life, a 100% different life, and no one can ever imagine it. No one can,” Sullivan said.

Even during the COVID pandemic, when in-person contact was limited for most and all but impossible for the most vulnerable immunologically, the foundation found ways to grant wishes at parks and still participate directly by driving by in a caravan, honking and waving supportive signs.

“Giving back means a lot to me, in general, because I’ve been through a lot in life and I see life from a different angle than a lot of people,” Sullivan said. “I still am going through things right now, but it won’t change my perspective on anything at all.”

Sullivan said that each recipient of a wish received a personalized memory book so that they could reflect upon the moment moving forward. Despite his own travails, Sullivan, his mother Lori and the small but potent non-profit are dedicated to making that magic over and over.

“We’re like Santa Claus,” said Sullivan, who shared first-star honors with Frank Vatrano Sunday. “But we don’t come in December, we come whenever we’re needed.”

More articles

Latest article