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  1. ITV Report

US team reaches out to little NI superhero fan

A special superhero themed hockey jersey is on its way to Ethan. Credit: Team McClean/Atlanta Gladiators

A little boy with an incurable life-limiting condition is getting a special present all the way from the US that combines his two big loves of ice hockey and superheroes.

Ethan McClean, who is from Ballymena in Co Antrim, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy - a severe form of the muscle-wasting condition which is sadly terminal.

However, the nine-year-old focuses on living every day to the full and even takes part in charity marathons with the help of his Team McClean supporters.

He has two things that really put a smile on his face, namely his favourite ice hockey team - the Belfast Giants - and Marvel superheroes that inspire him to be strong.

So when local hockey fans caught wind of a team in the US who were having a Marvel theme night, complete with Captain America style jerseys, they immediately thought of Ethan.

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Giants fan Joel Neill tweeted to the Atlanta Gladiators, an ice hockey team who play in the ECHL and are an affiliate of the NHL’s Boston Bruins, to ask if they had heard of Ethan.

“He’s a very special wee dude and Captain America has helped to give him a tonne of courage and fight,” he wrote.

“What do we need to do to get him one of those jerseys?”

The Belfast Giants faithful were only too happy to wade in, retweeting to show their support and adding their own messages to the Gladiators about how the jerseys were just perfect for Ethan.

And before too long, they got a response.

Atlanta Gladiators coach Chuck Weber was joined by player Taylor Stefishen to send a special video message across the pond.

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That alone made Ethan smile, but his face just lit up when he heard exactly what they had to say.

“We’ve heard about all the great work that Team McClean is doing and your battle overseas in the UK day in and day out,” they said.

“The Atlanta Gladiators would love to be part of combining two of your great loves … And would love to give you a jersey.”

You know Captain America’s a great superhero, but we know you’re a greater superhero.

– The Gladiators’ message to Ethan

Weber and Stefishen, who both have connections to the Elite League that Belfast plays in, seemed to realise poaching Ethan from his beloved Giants would be tough.

But they still hoped he could become a big fan of the Gladiators as well.

“Know you’re always welcome here in Georgia – hopefully we’ll see you at a game here in the near future,” they added.

As Ethan managed to say: “Wow.”

  • Watch the heart-warming moment Ethan was left almost speechless