Flyers help Make-A-Wish kid’s dream come true

Zachary Wertz (left) signs two-day honorary contract as Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher looks on.

VOORHEES, N.J. – Just about every young hockey player dreams of becoming a pro someday but nine-year-old Zachary Wertz wasn’t even sure he would live long enough to have that fantasy come true.

Well, a two-day honorary contract Wertz signed with the Flyers yesterday did come about and when he took to the ice after Tuesday’s Flyers practice at the Flyers Training Center, there were smiles (and maybe a few tears) all around.

Wertz, who hails from Egg Harbor, N.J., was the recent recipient of a life-changing liver transplant. The future looks much brighter.

The courage shown by kids such as Wertz is just remarkable.

And when Wertz was able to shoot a puck past goaltender Carter Hart, the whole rink erupted. Wertz’s favorite player, Travis Konecny, was the first to come over and congratulate him.

It’s all part of the Make-A-Wish program. Wertz made his original wish in 2020 but due to COVID-19 protocols, his wish was forced to be put on hold.

Finally, on Tuesday, Wertz was able to hit the ice with his heroes. Later, he toured the team’s locker room, its training facilities and have lunch with everyone.

“That Make-A-Wish stuff is just phenomenal,’’ coach John Tortorella said. “The things that go on with some kids. . .we worry about all this stuff that we do – I got a chance to sit with him before we went on the ice, meet his family. He’s with TK, I just walked by him, they’re having lunch together. He’s sitting there with the boys.

“It wakes you up a little bit. He seems like a super kid. Some of these kids don’t really have a fair whack at it. I’m so thrilled that we’re part of it. The boys are embracing him down there (on the ice), that’s for sure.’’

James van Riemsdyk hails from Middletown, N.J., just up the Garden State Parkway from Egg Harbor, and smiled at Wertz’s mention.

“You saw the smile on his face,’’ JVR said. “And on all our faces, too. It was definitely fun to see all that.’’

Scott Laughton said seeing Wertz reminded him of his childhood and having his father bring him to beer league games to watch the action.

“This not only brightens up his (Wertz’s) day but it brightens up ours for sure,’’ Laughton said. “Just to see him smiling and celebrating like that, it’s always special when you can do things like that. It’s just an awesome thing.’’

 

This sort of experience puts things in perspective.

“I used to go out with my dad’s beer league team and I thought it was the NHL,’’ Laughton said with a chuckle. “I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. It brings you back. It’s just a special thing to happen.’’

Flyers senior manager of community relations Tori Kimberly had a major role in working with Make-A-Wish to make the day happen.

Wertz said, “Just skating with the guys, it made me feel really good. They gave me a lot of advice, about shooting, passing and everything.’’

He plays youth hockey for the Atlantic City Sharks.

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About Wayne Fish 2437 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.