Last Thursday, a retired Clearwater, FL police officer became a viral sensation after her infectious excitement about her first NHL hockey game made her an instant fan favorite. Retired Officer Terri Coriaty Naumann said she needed a morale boost after completing chemotherapy last month. A close friend gave her a ticket to see the Tampa Bay Lighting play the Buffalo Sabres at Amalie Arena to raise her spirits and, according to Naumann, it was love at first sight.
“I walked in and I was like a little kid at Chuck E. Cheese,” she told NHL reporters.
She admits that she knew little about hockey before entering the arena for the first time but added that she wasn’t shy about her naivety. She instantly made friends with all of the fans sitting in her section by asking them to help her understand her new-found love of the game. She knew that the cool air and raucous atmosphere was just what she needed, but knew little else. Other fans took notice and instantly included her in the fanbase, becoming her in-area mentors. Some fans even tweeted about the experience.
Naumann and her new friends made such a splash on social media that employees of the NHL and Tampa Bay Lightning took notice and decided they had to meet their new super-fan themselves. A member of the Lightning’s Bolt Brigade spirit squad, Aaron Humphrey, went to meet Naumann and give her a free t-shirt so she could represent the team. Her excitement was so infectious that they decided they couldn’t stop there.
“I just went up there and sat with her and asked her how the game was going and how she was liking it, and we just got into a conversation of how she used to be a police officer,” Humphrey said.
Humphrey left but returned shortly afterwards with more gifts. The team presented Naumann with a certificate to commemorate her first NHL game, a few more t-shirts, and a highly-coveted Steven Stamkos Pop Vinyl figurine.
“She was probably one of the sweetest older ladies I’ve ever met,” Humphrey said. “Just the stories she was telling me about helping family members at a young age, just even the fact of being a retired police officer, she got injured while being a cop and didn’t want to retire with disability, wanted to continue serving. It’s a true honor to meet somebody like that, that wants to continue helping people.”
Naumann was diagnosed with Stage 3 bladder cancer just one month after turning 62. The disease had been ravaging her body for over three years before she was diagnosed. The treatments were physically, and financially, exhausting. Her lack of energy and money led her to become a recluse, only leaving her home to spend time with her two granddaughters.
The experience has boosted Naumann’s morale exponentially.
“I’m just thankful that I’m here,” she said. “When you are diagnosed with a catastrophic disease, you look at life differently. I’m just trying to live one day at a time now, I can’t worry about what I don’t have, but that game brought me back to life.”
Naumann was markedly happier and more active for days after the event, according to friends and family. She has one more major surgery ahead and vows to attend another Lightning game once she regains her strength.