CARLSBAD, Calif. Dec. 22, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- The NHL Winter Classic®, now in its fourth year, will be played on January 1, 2011, at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field. The hometown Penguins, led by team captain Sidney Crosby, will host the visiting Washington Capitals and their two-time league MVP, Alex Ovechkin. But there will be plenty of media attention taking place the day before the big game as well, courtesy of the Upper Deck Company and a nine-year-old hockey player and NHL fan from Oakton, Virginia.
As a longstanding partner of the NHL, Upper Deck is pleased to announce that Robert Jansons has been selected as the grand prize winner in the company's recent "2011 Winter Classic Stick Kid" contest. The promotion was conducted over the past month in conjunction with the Capitals Kids Club. More than 50 youngsters between the ages of 8 and 14 submitted essays, but it was Jansons' entry, written on Nov. 29, which swayed the judges.
"This is the best day of my life," said the third-grader at Hunters Woods Elementary School in nearby Reston upon hearing the news. "I waited a little while before I started to write the essay, but I really wanted to see the Caps in action so bad."
Thanks to his convincing prose, Jansons, who celebrated his ninth birthday on Nov. 6, will serve as the official "Stick Kid" during the Capitals practice in Pittsburgh on Friday, Dec. 31, from 2 to 4 p.m. His grand prize package consists of tickets to the Winter Classic for his family, two nights' hotel accommodations in the Steel City, a travel voucher for $250, and an Upper Deck prize pack. A member of the Caps Kids Club since February, Jansons added: "The most exciting part of the trip will just be watching the game and getting to meet the players."
The contest rules were simple: submit an essay describing why you should be selected for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to serve as the Capitals' stick kid during the Winter Classic practice session. From November 20 through Dec. 15, youngsters were encouraged to get involved via email blasts from the Caps Kids Club as well as rotating banner ads on its website and in-arena announcements and signage at the Verizon Center, the home of the Capitals.
The son of Maris and Sonja Jansons, and older brother of five-year-old David, Robert stands 4' 5" tall and weighs 80 pounds. He names current Capitals right winger Mike Knuble as his favorite player "because he's Latvian, just like me, and because I like his strategies. I like how he plays the game."
A competitive youth hockey defenseman for the past four years, Jansons currently plays for the Yellow Team in the "Squirts" Division at the Ashburn Ice House in Ashburn, Virginia. And despite the fact that his father is a Flyers fanatic from Philly, Robert has always remained a Capitals fan.
Asked what he initially thought of his son's chances of winning the contest, Maris answered: "I was really impressed. I said, 'Wow, this is a great entry.' I even said to Sonja, 'There's a chance he could win this.'"
As it turns out, Robert's mother was the true inspiration behind his entry. Part of his essay included the following passage: "I think I should be selected as 2011 Winter Classic stick kid because I am a die-hard Capitals fan, which isn't easy because my dad is from Philadelphia and loves ONLY the Flyers.
"The only person that roots for the Caps with me is my mom. Last year, she had treatment for breast cancer but we still watched the Caps. We haven't been able to go anywhere much so we would love to see the Winter Classic. Even though it was a rough year, I still got good grades and didn't miss any of my hockey practices or games."
Best of all, Robert seems to have his priorities in order. Just ask his mom.
"I've been through chemo and radiation therapy, and I've got one more surgery to go through, but I'm doing well," said Sonja. "But Robert's the one who really stepped up to the plate this past year. He's done so much, much more than any eight-year-old should have to do. Plus, since we had just moved into a new house and he started at a new school, he's done everything that we've asked. And so much more."
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SOURCE The Upper Deck Company