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Barrie, Ont. boy forms unique friendship with NHLer Auston Matthews


A young Barrie boy is riding the waves after his most recent encounter with one of the best players in the NHL today.

Soon to be eight years old, Finnegan Sposito has formed a one-of-a-kind relationship with Toronto Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews. The two first met in 2019, cementing a bond that has lasted to this day.

"I remember talking about the skates and I remember talking about [how] he's the best hockey player," Finn recalls. "He's my best buddy ever."

At a young age, Finn was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a disease that leads to excess mucus, trapped infections and blocked airways in the lungs. It costs the young second grader about two hours a day in required therapy treatments.

"We're always kind of cautious going to new places," said dad Matthew. "Although Finn has an immune system when he does get sick, he just stays sicker longer, and then we know the long-lasting effects potentially of some of these infections."

Finnegan Sposito, of Barrie, Ont., meets his hockey hero, Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews, in 2019. (Supplied: Sposito Family)

But that diagnosis is the foundation of his friendship with Matthews.

"You know my dad's little brother, who he was extremely close with growing up, had CF, and he's actually the one that kind of introduced me to hockey and had season tickets to Coyotes games," Matthews said in a promotional video. "So he would always bring me and my dad, so without him and without that connection, I'm not sure I'd be playing hockey."

According to Finn's father, Matthews regularly invites patients with cystic fibrosis to a box suite at the Scotiabank Arena. The Spositos snagged such an invite just prior to the pandemic when Finn was just three.

Then late in 2023, the family got a call from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, telling them Matthews wanted to meet Finn again, tasking him to help design the skates he would wear at the then-upcoming All-Star 2024 game in Toronto.

Finnegan Sposito, of Barrie, Ont., shows his hockey hero, Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews his designs for skates the player would wear in the All-Stars Game. (Courtesy: CCM)

The offer was part of a Sick Kids Hospital, CCM and Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment campaign.

"Camille called me at work and was like, hey, what do you think? I'm like, of course! There's no question. He has to do it," said Matthew Sposito.

During a routine visit to Sick Kids late last year, young Finn was surprised with a visit from #34 when he found out he'd be putting his design skills to work, something he's quite proud of.

"If I were to draw something, it would be something really cool," Finn said. "I can design anything you want, except for something like really hard!"

With a dream of one day being a paleontologist, Finn and Matthews finalized a dragon-themed design for the skates Matthews would dig into on the All-Star ice.

The third encounter was just a few months later, when Finn, his sister and his parents would spend the weekend in Toronto, seeing the big game in person.

Afterwards, Matthews was ready to meet one of his number-one fans for the third time.

"Auston is a really, really good guy. After the initial excitement of giving him a big hug and yelling his name, it was kind of like they were best buddies just hanging out and talking," said dad Matthew. "It was really cool to see."

Dragon-themed skates designed for Auston Matthews by a Barrie boy. (Courtesy: CCM)

And Matthews made sure Finn didn't leave empty-handed. He had a pair of the skates Finn designed, fit for his kid-size feet, ready for him to take home.

"That was, that was the best part of the weekend – was just seeing the joy in his eyes after it was all kind of said and done and just kind of absorbing the event," said Matthew.

When he returned to class, Finn was excited to share with his friends that the experience made him famous on apps like YouTube, saying he was the talk of the school.

"They are like really excited," Finn said. "They like to say everybody in like my school said, 'Finnegan, you're famous! Finnegan, you're famous!"

When young Finn watches the games from home, he has one thought on his mind as he watches his famous friend dominate the game this year.

"Auston Matthews always wins!" Top Stories


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