Toronto Maple Leafs forward Michael Grabner was just 17 years old when he moved from his home in Austria to Washington, to begin his North American hockey career with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL. To ease his transition to life on a new continent, Grabner moved in with Rachel and Rob McCann, a local family, which takes in players for the Chiefs each season.
Grabner quickly grew attached to the McCanns, and they helped introduce him to the NFL and the Denver Broncos, Rachel McCann’s favorite team. The McCanns live firmly in Seattle Seahawks territory, so Rachel always caught a ton of flack from everyone — Grabner included — for rooting for the Broncos. But when Denver made it to the Super Bowl this year, Grabner decided to give back to the family and the woman who did so much for him long before his NHL career began.
“My husband told me that [Grabner's wife] Heather and Michael were going to FaceTime me,” Rachel McCann told The Spokesman-Review. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, they are pregnant. They are telling me something big.’
“Then they told me they got tickets for the Super Bowl for myself and Rob. (Grabner) was so cute. He was really excited about giving this to me.
“It’s not just the Super Bowl. This is my team. It is really special that he even thought of this. He has been incredibly generous.”
Grabner lived with the McCanns from 2004-2007, but he still remains in touch with the family and goes back to Washington to visit them every summer. Grabner refused to say how much he paid for the Super Bowl tickets — something the family never could have afforded on their own — and he told The Spokesman-Review that he needs to keep the price a secret since Rob McCann keeps trying to pay him back for a portion of the tickets.
But Grabner’s generosity meant Rachel McCann finally got a chance to be at the game when her beloved Broncos won the Super Bowl, and that gift was surely priceless.
Arielle Aronson writes about the NHL for FOX Sports. You can follow her on Twitter @aharonson28.