This is in todays Morning Star Newspaper:
One man’s unconditional love for hockey
By Graeme Corbett - Vernon Morning Star Published: December 02, 2008 7:00 PM
Taylor Nelson was the epitome of a diehard Vernon Vipers hockey fan.
It wouldn’t matter if the Snakes were first in the B.C. Hockey League or on a five-game skid, his devotion to this team was unconditional.
Sadly, Nelson’s relationship with the Vipers was shortlived. The 22-year-old died in Vancouver General Hospital from injuries he sustained after being struck by a van while he and a friend were crossing 32nd Street on Nov. 21.
Nelson moved to Vernon with his mother Vivian from Maple Ridge three years ago, and, not knowing anyone they decided to check out a Vipers’ game. When Vivian bought a jersey, someone from the front office offered to have it signed by the players.
“Are you serious? Really?” Vivian recalled asking the staff member. “From then on, it’s always been Vipers, Vipers, Vipers.”
Taylor wore that autograph-riddled jersey to every game he went to. It was a badge of honour.
Formerly hard-core Vancouver Canucks fans, Vivian once asked Taylor if he’d like to go back and watch the Canucks play, to which he replied: “Nope, the Vipers are playing.”
Vipers’ owner Duncan Wray recalls the first time he met Nelson at the team ice breaker two years ago. Out of the blue, Taylor got up to the vacant mic and, putting the Vipers on the spot, invited the entire team to attend his Halloween party.
“The players all loved him, and he was the kind of kid that was always immensely positive,” smiled Wray. “Whether we win or lose, he was the ultimate fan.”
Taylor never missed a game or an opportunity to hang out with the players at team promotions around Vernon. Heck, he even Facebooked with most of them.
“They’d pick him up and take him to a movie,” said Vivian, adding that Trent Dorais was probably Taylor’s favourite Viper. “And they’ve always, always given him the time. I mean, they’re 16-,17-, 18-year-old boys, and they’ve always taken the time for him.
“It was like a religion to him. He knows where they’re born, he knows where they’re from, the last club they played for... he even met their parents on parents’ weekend.”
That Taylor was developmentally delayed was inconsequential to everyone who knew him. He also had Marfans syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue, causing Taylor’s long-limbed appearance. It also led to serious heart complications.
“He’s had multiple surgeries – he’s got two steel rods in his back, he’s got pins in his hip, and he never, ever complained,” said Vivian. “That’s how Taylor lived his life. You fall down, you brush off, you keep going. There were no grudges.”
Added Vipers’ marketing manager Heidi Schrader: “He probably had the most legitimate reasons to complain out of anyone, and he didn’t. Not once have I ever seen him complain or be unhappy.
“He was beyond the most positive person I’ve ever met, and his positive energy just filled whatever room he was in.
“If I was having a bad day, or I was bummed out about something, or I was angry, I would just go and stand by Taylor, and it would all just disappear.”
When Vivian was married last December, it was Taylor who walked her down the aisle.
“He got into the car after the ceremony, and he looked at me and he said ‘Mom, do you think Papa was proud of me?’ That was just him,” said Vivian.
Even in death, Taylor is still doing good for other people. His corneas have been donated to two different recipients, and Vivian added: “We couldn’t have donated a better part – to see the world through Taylor’s eyes... I wish I could.”
The Vipers will honour Taylor’s memory by wearing a sticker with his initials on their helmets for the rest of the season. They also presented Vivian with a jersey with ‘Nelson’ and ‘#1’ on the back before the Snakes’ Friday night game against the Cowichan Valley Capitals, and had her drop the puck in a ceremonial faceoff.
Taylor’s funeral was held Saturday at St. James Church, followed by a celebration of life at the Schubert Centre where several hundred people paid tribute to Taylor, including friends and relatives from Vancouver Island, Alberta and the Yukon.
And, of course, several members of the Vernon Vipers organization.
“He wasn’t even a fan, he was more like a family member,” said Vipers’ defenceman Cody Ikkala, who spoke at Taylor’s funeral. “Despite his disability, I felt like he could be one of the players. He always cheered no matter how we did. He always had a smile on his face, he was always polite.
“It was an honour to have known him.”