RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Carolina Hurricanes are still sitting on top of their division as we head into the final month of the regular season - the players say having the fans back in the building makes a huge difference especially as we near the playoffs - and there's one 12-year-old fan who stole the show this weekend reminding us all that sometimes it is bigger than sports.
Throughout the pandemic - with social distancing and quarantining, some friendships have been put to the test.
But nothing can break the bond between Emma Izzo and Canes forward Jordan Martinook.
"Everybody thinks that I made her day," said Martinook. "I made her night but seeing her I told my wife...I got a little emotional seeing her. It was definitely great to see her back at a game and you just can't help but smile when you see her. Her energy is amazing."
"We've watched every game and she started saying, 'I want to go to a hockey game,'" said Tina Izzo. "'I've missed my buddy.' That became her thing that she kept saying, she's missed her buddy. We just made the effort and just to be able to reconnect with him and the other Canes fans that were around. It really was something special."
Friday night was Emma Izzo's first night back at PNC Arena since before the pandemic began - it was also a reunion with "her buddy" Jordan Martinook who made sure her night was extra special by gifting her his stick.
"She was just wanting him to see her," Izzo said. "That was all she was wanting. She was like, 'My buddy see me?' I was like hopefully he will see you. She was just as happy when he waved and smiled at her, that was enough for her. When he said, Hold on a minute,' I thought, 'What is he doing?' Was not expecting the hockey stick at all. It was just awesome. It was just such a thoughtful thing for him to do."
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"Even if I brighten her day a little bit that's all that really matters," said Martinook. "It didn't matter if she has Down syndrome or whatever. It's just trying to interact with fans and that's what it's all about. If making people's days better, it made my day better too because I couldn't wipe the smile off my face the entire warm-up."
The friendship began in 2019 when the two saw each other through the glass at a Hurricanes exhibition game and it's grown ever since. It's a relationship that comes second nature to Martinook who's mother has worked with adults with developmental disabilities her whole life.
"My mom, she's just very drawn to adults and children with Down syndrome and I think that's definitely rubbed off on me," he said. "When you see her (Emma) it just makes you want to smile."
"When he just gave her that smile and that wave, it was so genuine and it's an instinct she has to almost recognize a good person," said Izzo. "I could tear up a bit. It means a lot because there's challenges of course with having a special needs child but there's so many joys and happiness that come along with it so for someone else to recognize that little extra something special that she has and especially someone like Martinook that is at a professional level, your buddy, it really does mean so much. As a mom, the mom of her, she receives so much happiness and all from it, it just makes me happy."
When Martinook was with the Coyotes before coming to Carolina, he worked with Down Syndrome Arizona and hopes when things are safer, that he and his wife can do the same here for people just like Emma.