Atkinson's dogged determination scores fan a new friend

It was during pre-game warm-ups when Cam Atkinson saw the young fan holding a sign bearing a special message. He was determined not to let her down. And he didn’t.

It was during pre-game warm-ups when Cam Atkinson saw the young fan holding a sign bearing a special message specifically for him. He was determined not to let her down. And he didn’t.

Minutes before the puck dropped on Columbus’ January home tilt against Montreal, Atkinson, in his third full season with the Blue Jackets, eyed the little girl in the stands.

The sign nine-year-old Maddie Wright (celebrating her birthday) held aloft had a special request: if Atkinson scored, she’d get a dog.

Talk about pressure.

“I sure did see it,” said Atkinson with a laugh. “That gives you some extra motivation, for sure.”

With 5:20 remaining on the clock in the first period, Atkinson delivered, netting his 14th goal on the season.

The tally, aside from tying the game 1-1, meant Maddie would soon be welcoming a new addition to her home.

Atkinson, however, wasn’t done. He lit the lamp two more times, one coming in the second frame and another in the third, more than enough to garner First Star recognition in the 5-2 win.

“I guess I should give Bobby Ryan some recognition for kicking things off,” said Atkinson, in reference to the Ottawa forward’s goal on January 24 that also earned a fan a dog. “I’m just happy it worked out well and I was lucky enough to score. But, it didn’t mean three dogs.”

Not long after the big night, Maddie and her family, along with their new dog, a black lab mix appropriately named Cam, visited Atkinson at Nationwide Arena.

“They are a great family and it was really nice to meet them and their new dog,” said the 26-year-old, who presented Maddie with a Columbus jersey, along with some treats for Cam. “It’s also wonderful that he’s a rescue dog (Atkinson paid for the adoption). He was a little skinny, but you could see he’s found himself a family that loves him and will give him a great life.”

Atkinson has been around dogs all his life – he and his girlfriend have one named Easton – making this story a true win-win for the humble native of Riverside, Connecticut.

“I’m really glad I had the opportunity to be part of this,” he said. “It’s always been very important to me, even before playing in the NHL, to have a close connection with our fans. They are a big reason why we get to do what we do.

“You feel very fortunate when you get to meet people like Maddie and her family,” he continued. “It’s nice things worked out for them and for their new dog.”

And all it took was a little inspiration, a hat trick and some dogged determination.