Lance Corporal George Handley wasn't always the biggest Chicago Blackhawks fan, but that's likely to change after the team brought him home for the holidays.
That's likely to change after the team gave him a Christmas present, Tuesday.
The Blackhawks teamed with the USO to fly Handley home to Chicago for the holidays after he submitted an award-winning autobiography to his military superior. Handley is stationed in Okinawa, Japan and wasn't scheduled to come home until 2012 at the earliest.
"Someone told me if I wrote an autobiography the Blackhawks would send me home," Handley said in the Hawks locker room. "I didn't believe it. Being overseas we don't get a lot of opportunities to make it home because of the cost. But the Blackhawks gave me a ticket and all I had to do was take leave."
The return trip, however, was only half the surprise. Blackhawks officials arranged for a party at the United Center with Handley's family.
But they sold it as a ruse. No one told Handley's family that George would be in the building.
"They said we were coming to watch them practice and have a little celebration in honor of George being in the marines," his mother Brenda said. "When he came out that door I was like, wow!"
"They didn’t know about it, but we did," Toews said. "We were taking them around the room and could tell they were getting a bit bored with us so we thought it was time to bring out George."
Handley, who learned about hockey through fantasy sports leagues, received a customized jersey with his name emblazoned across the back and his family was treated to Blackhawks gear like hats and shirts.
But it was the reunion that meant the most.