But when the final horn sounds and the gear comes off, they know that their battles are just entertainment. Outside of the arena, athletes get the chance to support those who are fighting much tougher battles.
Reid Besch, a longtime Nashville Predators fan, is fighting one of those battles. At 22 years old, Besch is undergoing treatment for Leukemia. While most of his days are filled with visits from family and doctors, he had a particularly special visitor this past week: Predators center Ryan Johansen, Besch’s favorite player.
“I was speechless,” Besch told Penalty Box Radio. “At first I thought it might’ve been a prank or a joke. My jaw dropped. It was incredible to see your favorite player walk in. You’re just blown away by it. It was just an incredible feeling. Total joy.”
Besch has been a local kid his whole life. He was born and raised in Franklin and went to high school at Brentwood Academy. He went on to Rhodes College in Memphis where he played football for all four years there. Besch graduated last May with a degree in business.
According to his brother’s Twitter feed, Besch started chemotherapy in January, but still managed to keep up with his favorite team.
— Chris (@cbesch24) January 21, 2018
Recently, one of Besch’s doctors found out about his Predators fandom and reached out to a contact with the team about giving him a chance to meet his favorite player. Johansen was more than willing to come and surprise Besch after practice last week.
“That’s what it’s all about for me and for everyone in this room, to be able to put a smile on a guy’s face like that,” Johansen said after Thursday’s win over the Los Angeles Kings. “I got the privilege of meeting him yesterday and give him a little bit of encouragement from my side and for how much he supports us, it was a very easy decision to head over after practice and go and visit him. I’m wishing him all the best right now and we’re definitely thinking of him down here.”
Johansen’s bond with Besch didn’t end with just one meeting last week. While the two were hanging out, Besch showed Johansen the rubber bracelets they made that read “Team Reid #NeverStopFighting.” Without hesitation, Johansen said he would give some to his teammates and wear them during Thursday night’s game.
After notching three assists in an inspired performance, Johansen gave Besch a memory he’ll never forget by putting his #NeverStopFighting bracelet down at center ice when he was named the third star of the game. Besch was blown away by how Johansen went above and beyond to support him.
“I mean, there’s a great picture of it and I’ll cherish that forever,” Besch said of the moment Johansen put his bracelet at center ice. “That’s just one of those that it was truly a guy who took the time and truly cared about what happened and our interaction, whether it was five minutes or 25 minutes. It really meant something to him just like it meant something to me.”
“He could have easily just worn it and not told anybody about it or done anything like that, but for him to do everything that he’s done, it was just incredible,” he added.
All in all, as a Predators fan and as a warrior in the fight against cancer, Besch is thrilled with how the Predators have come together to support him and with how the team interacts with the Nashville community in a unique and meaningful way.
Because, in the end, the Predators have athletes that know where the real battles lie.
“I’ve actually talked about that to a bunch of my family and friends,” he said. “I think they do an incredible job in the community. You see [P.K]. Subban and what he does, he stays active and always involved in the community and stuff. You see, and personally experience, one of the Predators come in and take time out of his schedule to actually visit with someone in the hospital like that, anyone in the community not just a fan, it’s incredible. I can’t commend them enough.
“Whatever they’re doing, they need to keep doing it because that was incredible. I know everyone appreciates it.”