Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jeered young Islanders fan receives outpouring

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What a difference a day makes.

Sue Lotocki penned a letter to the editor deploring the reaction fans gave to her 11-year-old son, a New York Islanders fan who showed up in an Islanders jersey at a Winnipeg Jets game last week.

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"My 11-year-old son idolizes John Tavares. He was disappointed he wouldn't have the opportunity to see Tavares play on March 4 against the Jets but proudly wore his #91 jersey to the game," Lotocki wrote the Free Press.

When the Jets lost to the Islanders, the trouble started, she said.

In her letter, Lotocki recounted how her son became a target for fan disappointment. "As we tried to make our way through the crowds, there were taunts and even profanity," she wrote.

She said her son, Jake Lotocki, kept walking and ignored the jeers, "the great little sportsman that he is."

The end of the letter is what got to people: "The night ended with me leading my crying son out of the arena with a treasured jersey balled up in his hands."

The letter was published Monday. By Tuesday, the tune had changed and Jake had become a media celebrity for the hazing he endured.

"It's been very positive, very favourable," said Lotocki in an interview Tuesday evening, recounting interviews with local radio stations, newspapers and a message on voice mail from the public relations executive with the New York Islanders.

"We'll return that call tomorrow," the proud mother said.

The public responded with hockey tickets and other offers the family turned down. The one offer they did accept was a hockey stick from Royal Sports and a mysterious "something" signed by the boy's hero, John Travares himself, courtesy of a local radio station.

Those gifts aren't in the boy's hands yet. They're coming next week, the mother said.

"We declined most of the things but we did accept these for my little hockey fan."

Lotocki said the best thing about the response is the support the family received. "Thank you for giving us a voice," she said to the Free Press.

The family's faith in sportsmanship is restored, she said.

She said the family didn't send in the letter to seek publicity and they declined photographs.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 12, 2014 B5

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