MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - The Gophers hockey team draws quite a crowd at Mariucci Arena, but it’s the band that plays at the games that has grabbed the attention of one young fan.
Liam Hammes was just two weeks old when he saw his first tuba at a Gophers hockey game.
His family says it has become a lifelong love affair.
"He's so cute. He's adorable. He's a joy to be around,” said Emma Rutkowski, a tuba player with the university’s Maroon Band. “He's always smiling and giving us high fives and hugs - listening to us play. It makes us happy to see him so happy."
Liam, now 3, fell in love with the tubas while watching The Maroon Band perform during Gophers men's hockey games.
The horn section returned the favor by giving him a signed hockey puck, a stocking hat with a tuba patch on it as well as a hockey jersey with his name on the back.
"We love what these kids are doing,” said Bill Hammes, Liam’s grandfather. “These are great role models. You look at these kids and you say this is our future. This is great. These are kids who really care and they've expressed that and we can't thank them enough."
Liam's family isn't sure why the big brass instrument has struck such a chord with the three-year-old.
"I don't know if it’s the sound of the tubas or the size of them,” said Bill Hammes. “At first, he was afraid of them, but there's no fear anymore. He's just absolutely fascinated with them. For some reason, that's the instrument that took with him.”
But for now, the boy and his tubas are making beautiful music together.
"I hope when I'm 30 years old, I can come back and see him standing up there and I'll be like do you remember me?” said Rutkowski.
Liam will miss Friday night's Gophers game because his grandfather donated their season tickets for that game to charity.
But he will be in the stands for the team's last home game Saturday night - no doubt cheering on the tuba section.