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'Very nice distraction': Canada's smallest Oilers fan inspires hope in Saskatchewan

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As the Stanley Cup final heads into Game 3 on Thursday, there’s one Oilers fan here in Saskatchewan who is most likely the smallest, and sickest — but he’s sending positive winning vibes.

Baby Mark is in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital.

His parents, Katelyn and Tyson, and big brother John are huge fans of the Edmonton Oilers — set to go head-to-head with the Florida Panthers on Thursday.

“I mentioned to one of my primary nurses that my husband‘s a big Oilers fan and we came in the next day and [there were] decorations everywhere,” Katelyn Binner told CTV News.

Mark was born more than 10 weeks premature at just under one kilogram. He’s been in hospital for more than two months.

Baby Mark Binner weighed just under one kilogram when he was born. (Courtesy: Katelyn Binner)

Trying to create some normalcy, the family leaned into their love of the Oilers with playoffs underway.

“OK, let’s get Mark a jersey. Let’s get some photos taken,” she says.

That jersey way too big to fit Mark, a size 12 months was the smallest they could find, since many stores were sold out. It’s much too large, and right now it serves as more of a blanket.

“These last few weeks have been stressful trying to build him up to taking the breathing tube out, and that’s the plan for tomorrow. This is very nice distraction,” Binner said.

Now, Mark weighs just over two kilos and is making progress. Maybe the Oilers décor in his room is helping.

“I went out to get the jersey after rounds and when I got back there was three staff at the front desk asking me, ‘did you get a jersey?’”

CTV News reached out to members of the Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG), who offered their support to the Binner family.

“We know Oil Country extends into Saskatchewan and we appreciate the tremendous support from our neighbours to the east – including the smallest Oilers fan. We send our best wishes, and we are all rooting for Baby Mark and his family,” said Tim Shipton, executive vice-president of the OEG.

Shipton says they’re even mailing an Oilers gift pack to the family’s home in Loon Lake, Saskatchewan.

Doctors at the children’s hospital in Saskatoon continue to work to help Mark get stronger each day.

“With the equipment we have in this hospital we are able to maintain a stability and to make them grow to where we are able to pull the breathing tube, hopefully tomorrow,” Doctor Laurence Givelichian, neonatologist, told CTV News.

At the hospital it’s all hands on deck with positive thoughts.

“We are going to have two positives here that Mark will be fine tomorrow, and the Oilers are going to win their next game,” he said.

“We’re on that mentality right now — just think positive,” Binner said. 

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