Andre Marleau is a 10-year-old boy from North Bay, Ontario, who will be headed to a children’s hospital in Ottawa after the holidays to begin discussing dialysis treatment in preparation for an eventual kidney transplant.
He is a massive Islanders fan — and even bigger Mathew Barzal fan.
So when word reached Barzal that Andre’s dad, Richard, was searching for his jersey to buy his son for Christmas, the 23-year-old star center took things a step further and arranged for a face-to-face call with Andre.
“A bit star-struck I guess, he’s a bit shy,” Richard Marleau said of his son’s reaction in a recent phone call with The Post. “Wasn’t sure what to say what to do.”
“[He] was hiding his face at some times just because he was so overwhelmed, the surreality of the situation,” Tasha Marleau, Andre’s mom, added.
Despite the exhilaration of meeting his idol, Andre didn’t hesitate to ask what has been on every true Islanders fan’s mind for the past few months: When is he returning to New York?
“It was a bit awkward because we’re aware of the current situation,” Richard said with a giggle. “So, he politely explained that once the contract situation is fixed, he’ll be immediately back in New York.”
Andre is just one of many who are anxiously awaiting to see what kind of deal the Islanders give Barzal, who is in the midst of contract negotiations ahead of the condensed 2020-21 NHL season, after becoming a restricted free agent at the end of last season.
Given the extended amount of time it took to figure out the logistics of the upcoming season because of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the fact that Barzal didn’t have arbitration rights, it’s delayed both sides in coming to an agreement.
General manager Lou Lamoriello has utilized the delay to prioritize freeing up cap space by trading Devon Toews to Colorado and having Johnny Boychuk unofficially retire, in addition to signing Ryan Pulock to a short-term deal.
According to Andre Marleau, who says he has been a Barzal fan since first grade (he’s in fourth grade now), the Islanders need Barzal for his incomparable skating abilities and puck movement. In 68 games last season, Barzal registered 19 goals and 41 assists. He also collected five goals and 12 assists in 22 playoff games as the Islanders came just two wins away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final.
Though his next contract has been the hot topic of the offseason, especially with training camp set to start in three days, Barzal made the time to reach out to one of his biggest fans who was in need of some words of encouragement.
Coincidentally, Andre had an assignment in school a few months ago to come up with questions for someone that he would like to interview. There wasn’t anyone else he could think of but Barzal.
Little did he know, he would end up scoring that most coveted interview with Barzal amid such a significant part of his career.
“We do want to thank Mathew and the Islanders organization for doing this,” Richard Marleau said. “It may not seem like a lot, but for Andre, it means an awful lot.”