After being refused access to a public skate near Hamilton, a dying youngster has been invited to practise with the Toronto Maple Leafs today.

Tucker Patterson, who is named for former Leafs star Darcy Tucker, lives life in a wheelchair. The three-year-old suffers from a terminal genetic disorder called Leigh’s disease, which attacks his motor functions. He can no longer walk, talk or eat.

On Jan. 17, his mother, Kari Patterson, called a Flamborough ice rink to ask if they were able to accommodate Tucker and his wheelchair during their afternoon public skate. They were told “No.”

“I was angry,” Kari told the Hamilton Spectator.

“It’s something we can do as a family ... we’re limited in what we can do together.”

The city’s recreation manager later said the employee who had refused the Pattersons misunderstood the facility’s policy.

Now Tucker’s team, the Leafs, has stepped up to include him. The Leafs have invited the family to the Air Canada Centre today to take a spin around the big league rink.

“They are going to watch the Leafs skate, watch the L.A. Kings skate, then hopefully we can get a couple guys to give a quick meet and greet,” said Leafs community partnerships representative Jason Schwabe.

The Patterson family, including Tucker’s two sisters, are all big skaters and hockey fans. Tucker’s father, David Patterson, said a Leafs game they went to last year was one of his son’s all-time highlights.

“We have pictures of him sitting straight up and just watching the guys skate around during the warm-up ... It was just awesome to see how excited he was and how into the hockey he was,” David said.

“I don’t know if he’ll have that same (response) the way he is now because his sight has decreased.”

It has been 18 months since Tucker was first diagnosed, at age two. No one can say for sure how long his fight against the odds will last.

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