Quispamis resident with autism has special connection with P.E.I.

Mitch MacDonald comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 24, 2016

Charlottetown Islanders star forward Daniel Sprong, left, meets up with superfan Adam Cripps during a recent road game against the Saint John Sea Dogs. While Cripps lives only a few kilometres outside of Saint John, the 18-year-old, who has autism, is a long-standing fan of P.E.I.'s Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team. 

©Photo special to The Guardian, Colin MacPhail/Telegraph-Journal

Adam Cripps becomes honorary member of Charlottetown Islander hockey team whenever it's in town

SAINT JOHN, N.B. - While he may live in Sea Dog territory, Adam Cripps becomes an honorary Islander whenever his favourite hockey team rolls into town.

The 18-year-old Quispamsis resident living with autism has all-access to the Charlottetown Islanders whenever the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team plays in Saint John.

In fact, Adam's father, Daniel Cripps, said that's pretty well the only time the family finds itself at the rink.

"We don't go to Sea Dogs games; (Adam) doesn't want to go. When the Islanders come, it's a different story," said Daniel. "When he walks in the dressing room it's like he's one of the owners. You can hear the high fives and slaps on the back."

Kevin Elliot, the team's athletic trainer for about 10 years, is one of the more familiar faces to the superfan.

During the team's last visit, Adam even had the chance to try on Elliot's gold medal ring and Team Canada hockey jersey earned from the Sochi Olympics.

"You could see he was really happy to have it on but, overall, I think the biggest thrill is just seeing the guys," said Elliot. "You kind of reach out because he was always so excited to be down here. And you could see the joy in his father's face to see the joy (Adam) had."

Having a familiar face when playing in enemy territory has also been a benefit for the Islanders.

Team members know they can count on getting a fist bump from Adam as they step onto the ice before he finds his usual seat next to their bench.

"It's fun to go to Moncton and see Islanders jerseys in the crowd, but to go into Saint John knowing every game that Adam is coming with his dad is pretty impressive," said Elliot. "It's something we really look forward to, and it's a bit of a reality check to know we have fans supporting us there."

The connection between the Cripps and the Islanders goes back about 10 years when forward Chis Doyle first joined the team, then named the P.E.I. Rocket, in 2006.

Having been involved in Charlottetown's harness racing scene, Daniel was friends with Chris' father and set up a meeting between their two sons after a game in Saint John.

It was the first of many encounters over the years.

"Chris always had time for him," said Daniel. "Every time you ask (Adam) who the best hockey player is, he'll say Chris Doyle. And I would say the same."

Since then, the team has undergone countless changes in its roster and coaching staff.

However, Cripps' support has remained constant.

He doesn't only support the team when they're playing in New Brunswick but also returns to P.E.I. every year around Old Home Week and takes part in training camp.

The playoffs is another occasion which sees the Cripps make a special trip to P.E.I.

Daniel said he could never thank the organization enough for the jerseys, memorabilia and attention given to Adam over the years.

However, seeing the respect members of the team give his son is what means the world to him.

"I always told my children, 'if you show respect you'll get respect'," he said. "I've played sports all my life and I can tell the Islanders are very sincere with this kid. Their sincerity is just incredible."