- Associated Press - Sunday, March 23, 2014

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) - A Michigan boy who said he didn’t want an 11th birthday party because he had no friends has received a pretty nice birthday present: a one-day gig as a professional hockey player.

In a surprise at Jaspare’s Pizza restaurant Tuesday, the minor league Kalamazoo Wings presented Colin with a one-day contract letting him join the team for its home game Sunday against the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL.

Coach Nick Bootland and players Elgin Reid, Eric Kattelus and Sam Ftorek helped with the surprise.

“I was not expecting this,” Colin, whose mother asked that his last name not be used, told the Kalamazoo Gazette. “I knew we were going to the restaurant, but I was not expecting the rest. … It’s been very heartwarming, is what I would say. I just love that so many people did this.”

Kalamazoo came through on game day as well, scoring four unanswered goals Sunday afternoon to beat the Komets 5-3.

“The victory was particularly sweet for Colin,” team spokesman Mike Modugno said in a statement Sunday.

The Richland boy, a fifth-grader in the Gull Lake Community Schools, has a condition similar to Asperger’s syndrome that makes it difficult to relate to peers. After telling his mother he didn’t want a birthday party because he had no one to invite, his mother created a “Happy Birthday Colin” Facebook page that drew more than 2 million “likes.”

“It’s been just overwhelming,” his mother said. “It’s been hard to adjust to suddenly, accidentally being famous. I have a pretty wild imagination, but I couldn’t expect this.”

Colin also received thousands of cards. The publicity led to a March 7 family appearance on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” show.

“Obviously there are things that are much bigger than the game,” Bootland said before the game. “If we can put a smile on a young guy’s face that deals with a lot of adversity, we’re excited about that opportunity.”



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