Muhammad Ali touched countless lives before he passed away on Friday, leading to an outpouring of grief and gratitude in remembrance of a life well lived.
One of those he helped shape with his kindness and generosity was a young Peter DeBoer. The San Jose Sharks coach took a moment at the end of his Stanley Cup Final Game 3 press conference on Saturday to share his personal experience with the champ.
“[We] lost a great person," he said. "I'm not a collector of sports memorabilia, but I have [four] things in my basement: I have a Wayne Gretzky stick, a Bobby Orr print, a Mike Weir Masters print, and I have a Quran signed by Muhammad Ali.
“I wouldn’t normally share this with you, but I think considering the circumstances today [I will]. I got it 30 years ago. I was at my prom at the Royal Connaught Hotel in Hamilton. I was a 17-year-old kid. Had my tux on. I was in the lobby. Muhammad Ali walked in with his entourage. He was there for some type of appearance.
“I asked one of the entourage if I could meet him with my friends. He said to give him a minute. He came back to me and he said, Muhammad Ali is up in this room. Meet him up in his room in five minutes.
“Me and three or four of my buddies went up to the room. He got out a Quran for each of us. He wasn’t preaching or trying to convert us, he just personalized each one for us, asked us some questions about what we were doing.
“It was an unbelievable life experience for me. I think, considering the circumstances, how this guy transcended not just boxing and sport, but how many people he’s touched, it [felt like] an appropriate story to tell.”