Doug Ball didn't give Idaho captain Ben Ondrus the shirt off his back. The longtime Steelheads fan topped that - he bought and gave Ondrus the jersey he wore as a rookie in the NHL.
"That's probably the coolest thing ever. It turning up in Boise, that's the last place I thought it would be," said Ondrus, who took two shots and finished with a plus-one rating in Idaho's 6-0 win over the Utah Grizzlies on Friday night at CenturyLink Arena.
It took a little work, and money, to get the jersey here, but Ball figured Ondrus earned it with his play - and his kindness off the ice.
Ball and his wife, Melanie, met Ondrus after a Steelheads game.
"He hung out with us all night," Ball said. "It was just so cool."
Ball had followed Ondrus since he played for Idaho during the 2002-03 season.
"He started his pro career here, and we're Leafs fans, so we watched him and followed him when he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs," said Ball, who attended the first Steelheads game in 1997 and has been a season-ticket holder for 12 years. "It was kind of special to watch him play here and go on to Toronto."
Needless to say, getting to spend some time with Ondrus was much-appreciated.
"I watched the guy play with the Leafs on TV and he hung out with us all night long," Ball said. "Who would do it?"
The Balls own about 30 assorted game-worn hockey jerseys, and at one point during their visit they asked Ondrus whether he had any of his Maple Leafs jerseys.
Turns out he didn't. And then the light bulb went off in Ball's head.
It wasn't long before Ball found a jersey on the Internet that Ondrus had worn with Toronto during the 2005-06 season. He paid $300 for the authentic sweater - and gave it to Ondrus.
"I'm pretty grateful," Ondrus said. "That's probably the most important one, from my first year in the NHL."
NOTES: Austin Smith had two goals and two assists for Idaho. Rylan Galiardi started the scoring with his first goal as a Steelhead in his second game with the team. Brett Robinson, David Toews and David de Kastrozza scored the other goals for Idaho (36-15-7) Two of the Steelheads' scores were shorthanded. Goaltender Josh Robinson (21-6-4) stopped 36 shots to earn his third shutout of the season. Goalie Tyler Beskorowany has been reassigned to Idaho from Texas of the AHL, and forward Sam Carrick earned his first call-up to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.
Chris Langrill: 377-6424