Young hockey fan the perfect public address announcer for Kids Takeover

Charlie Cook loves hockey.

No, really. He loves hockey.

“I don’t talk about anything else,” the excitable, enthusiastic 12-year-old said.

The young Blue Jackets fan loves hockey so much that he also plays the sport, and he has a nickname on his team given to him by one of the coaches.

“So I just gotta warn you, it’s already out,” he said of the nickname. “But I am the Secret Weapon. So me telling you, it’s even more out. Word is gonna be out all over Nationwide.”

All of this, of course, is normal for 12-year-olds across Central Ohio. But it’s not exactly normal for a child who had a stroke in utero and who has had to live with cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture, not to mention the most common motor disability in childhood.

In some ways, it’s a miracle that Charlie is even alive. It’s even more of a miracle that he can walk. And the fact that he can play hockey?

“It’s incredible,” his mother, Valerie, said. “It’s more than you can ask for. It’s a little overwhelming, actually.”

Blue Jackets fans met Charlie two winters ago, when he was celebrated as part of the team’s Hockey Is For Everyone night. He took the ice for the starting lineup that night in a CBJ jersey and lined up with team captain Nick Foligno.

Video: DET @ CBJ: Blue Jackets host Hockey Is For Everyone

Today, he’s back in a much different capacity for Kids Takeover Day. Charlie has been selected to be the public address announcer for the day – move over, Greg Murray – and will introduce the starting lineups for the game as well as other updates throughout the game.

Will there be any nerves?

“Not too many,” said Charlie, who also takes part in local theater productions. “I can be on camera.”

Added Valerie: “He loves anytime he can be in front of an audience. That’s honestly where he shines. It’s just a great opportunity and a great way to keep him excited, especially because there haven’t been many acting opportunities through COVID and everything. “That’s one of the things that really got pulled was his community theater. He’s starting to get back into it a little bit, but getting to come do something like this is super fun, especially at the end of it all.”

It might not be playing hockey, which Charlie would prefer, but it will still be a fun day for the Cook family around the sport. He got into the game because he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his brother Robbie, a goaltender for Olentangy Liberty High School’s team, and there was never a moment he didn’t see himself as someone who could play the sport despite his physical limitations. .

Video: Charlie’s Story

He got his start on the ice with the Columbus Blades sled hockey team, but that wasn’t where he wanted to stop

“He’s been talking about it since he was young – I want to do hockey just like everyone else,” Valerie said. “When he was really young and he wasn’t even walking yet, someone approached us and said, ‘Do you know there’s a sled hockey team?’ So we got him out there and got him on a sled and asked, ‘What do you think? This can finally be something you can do with your big brother.’ And he said, ‘No, I think I want to play stand-up hockey.’ “

Now, Charlie can not only walk but skate. He first took the ice in a gait trainer, a metal tool he could strap into that allowed him to skate but kept him upright should he lose his balance. Now, he skates without it and is a member of the CCYHA Special Hockey program; earlier this month, he skated at the USA Hockey Disabled Festival in Pittsburgh and scored a goal in two games.

“It’s so much fun to see him out there, see all the strides he’s made to be able to be out there, and not just traveling with the team but being able to skate with his team is exciting,” Valerie said. “It seems like it’s a quick thing, but he’s put in so much work in 12 years to be able to do what he envisions as the best thing you can do with other people.”

But for today, Cook is in the press box working as the public address announcer. Just how excited is he to be back in Nationwide Arena?

“Amazingly,” Charlie said. “This is the best event ever!”

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