Hon­orary Is­lan­der

N.B. res­i­dent liv­ing with autism shares spe­cial con­nec­tion with P.E.I. hockey team

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE PROVINCE - BY MITCH MACDON­ALD THE GUARDIAN

While he may live in Sea Dog ter­ri­tory, Adam Cripps be­comes an hon­orary Is­lan­der when­ever his favourite hockey team rolls into town.

The 18-year-old Quispamsis res­i­dent liv­ing with autism has all-ac­cess to the Char­lot­te­town Is­lan­ders when­ever the Que­bec Ma­jor Ju­nior Hockey League team plays in Saint John.

In fact, Adam’s father, Daniel Cripps, said that’s pretty well the only time the fam­ily finds it­self at the rink.

“We don’t go to Sea Dogs games; (Adam) doesn’t want to go. When­the Is­lan­ders come, it’s a dif­fer­ent story,” said Daniel. “When he walks in the dress­ing room it’s like he’s one of the own­ers. You can hear the high fives and slaps on­the back.”

Kevin El­liot, the team’s ath­letic trainer forabout 10 years, is one of the more­fa­mil­iar faces to the su­per­fan.

Dur­ing the team’s last visit, Adam even had the chance to try on El­liot’s gold medal ring and Team Canada hockey jersey earned from the Sochi Olympics.

“You could see he was re­ally happy to­have it on but, over­all, I think the big­gest thrill is just see­ing the guys,” said El­liot. “You kind of reach out be­cause he was al­ways so ex­cited to be down here. And you could see the joy in his father’s face to see the joy (Adam) had.”

Hav­ing a fa­mil­iar face when play­ing in en­emy ter­ri­tory has also been a ben­e­fit for the Is­lan­ders. Team mem­bers know they can count on get­ting a fist bump from Adam as they step onto the ice be­fore he finds his usual seat next to their bench.

“It’s funto go to Monc­ton and see Is­lan­ders jer­seys in the crowd, butto go into Saint John know­ing ev­ery game that Adam is com­ing with his dad is pretty im­pres­sive,” said El­liot. “It’s some­thing we re­ally look for­ward to, an­dit’s a bit of a re­al­ity check to know we have fans sup­port­ing us there.”

The con­nec­tion be­tween the Cripps and the Is­lan­ders goes back about 10 years when for­ward Chis Doyle first joined the team, then named the P.E.I. Rocket, in 2006.

Hav­ing been in­volved in Char­lot­te­town’s har­ness rac­ing scene, Daniel was friends with Chris’ father and set up a meet­ing be­tween their two sons af­ter a game in Saint John.

It was the first of many en­coun­ters over­the years.

“Chris al­ways had time for him,” said Daniel. “Ev­ery time you ask (Adam) who the best hockey player is, he’ll say Chris Doyle. And I would say the same.”

Since then, the team has un­der­gone count­less changes in its ros­ter and coach­ing staff.

How­ever, Cripps’ sup­port has re­mained con­stant.

He doesn’t only sup­port the team when they’re play­ing in New Brunswick bu­talso re­turns to P.E.I. ev­ery year around Old Home Week and takes part in train­ing camp.

The play­offs is an­other oc­ca­sion which sees the Cripps make a spe­cial trip to P.E.I.

Daniel said he could never thank the or­ga­ni­za­tion enough forthe jer­seys, mem­o­ra­bilia and at­ten­tion given to Adam over the years.

How­ever, see­ing the re­spect mem­bers of the team give his son is what means the world to him.

“I al­ways told my chil­dren, ‘if you show re­spect you’ll get re­spect’,” he said. “I’ve played sports all my life and I can tell the Is­lan­ders are very sin­cere with this kid. Their sin­cer­ity is just in­cred­i­ble.”

PHOTO SPE­CIAL TO THE GUARDIAN, COLIN MACPHAIL/TELE­GRAPH-JOUR­NAL

Char­lot­te­town Is­lan­ders star for­ward Daniel Sprong, left, meets up with su­per­fan Adam Cripps dur­ing a re­cent road game against the Saint John Sea Dogs. While Cripps lives only a few kilo­me­tres out­side of Saint John, the 18year-old, who has autism, is a long-stand­ing fan of P.E.I.’s Que­bec Ma­jor Ju­nior Hockey League team.

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