SIOUX CITY — Luke Strand remembered the impact Carter Van Meeteren left on the Sioux City Musketeers on April 11.
So, the Musketeers gave Van Meeteren’s family a memory that they’ll never forget.
The Musketeers selected Van Meeteren — a seven-year-old Hull, Iowa, native who died recently of a congenital heart defect after battling hypoplastic left heart syndrome — Thursday in the United States Hockey League Phase II draft.
He was the 331st and final pick on the day, and the team thought it was the right way to make sure Van Meeteren would be a part of the Musketeers forever.
“We felt that it was important that everyone know how special he was,” said Strand, Sioux City’s head coach.
Strand came up with the idea of memorializing Van Meeteren before the final pick came up. Strand took the idea to general manager Andy Johnson and owner Lloyd Ney.
Ney said yes, and Johnson coined the idea as a “no-brainer.”
The Musketeers also took it to the league, and they approved the final pick before it was formally done.
“It was an easy conversation,” Johnson said. “Luke has such a big heart. When Luke brought the idea to us, it was an absolute no-brainer. What a way to honor his legacy. We just remember the impact that he made all around us.
"That experience meant the world to us," Johnson added.
When the USHL officially announced the pick, Strand clapped. Johnson held back some tears and admitted that there was a lump in his throat.
Van Meeteren simply was someone the Musketeers fell in love with.
Every year, the Musketeers team up with Floyd Valley Healthcare in Le Mars, and there’s a program called the Floyd Valley Hotshots.
It gives kids who are pediatric patients with chronic health issues a chance to forget about their problems and spend a day with the Musketeers.
Van Meeteren’s day with the Musketeers came on April 11.
The seven-year-old was one of six Hotshots selected, and he was the penultimate visitor for the program this past season.
The second that Van Meeteren entered the facility, he captured the hearts of the Musketeers.
He and Strand bonded right away.
“Carter and I connected, and he connected with all of our guys,” Strand said. “I think he had an eyes-wide-open approach. He wanted to be there. Carter lit up, just as if it were Christmas morning. He was just as excited as our players were to be there.”
Strand let Van Meeteren and his family come into the dressing room. His eyes lit up when he saw the players, and the players responded by giving Van Meeteren nothing but smiles and love.
It’s a custom in hockey to not stand on the Musketeers’ logo in the middle of the dressing room. Van Meeteren wanted to do it anyway, and the players ate it up.
Van Meeteren wasn’t the only Carter in the room, and the team bonded with the Hull seven-year-old over that.
Carter Loney was also on the roster for the Musketeers, and Strand said the whole room was “giggling” when Van Meeteren found out he and Loney had the same first name.
Van Meeteren got to be with the team on the bench during the game against the Lancers.
There were multiple times where Strand picked up Van Meeteren, so that he could have the best view in the Tyson Events Center.
The Musketeers were in the middle of their playoff push in late April, but Van Meeteren brought a sense of calmness to the players that they needed on the ice.
“It’s a special moment,” Strand said. “We’re proud of our partnership with Floyd.”
Van Meeteren closed out a draft that both Johnson and Strand were both excited about.
The Musketeers took 28 players in Phase I and Phase II of the USHL Draft.
The Phase I draft happened on Wednesday.
Sioux City’s first pick was center Brian Nicholas from Scarsdale, New York. He was the No. 8 overall pick.
Strand then went with Hermantown, Minnesota, native Ty Hanson with the 23rd pick. Hanson is a defenseman, who played in suburban Duluth.
Tyler Peddle went 38th overall to Sioux City. Peddle hails from Nova Scotia, and is a center.
In Phase II of the draft, the Musketeers’ top three picks came in the first 24 selections. Strand and crew first picked goalkeeper Axel Mangbo from Sweden.
Then, the Musketeers got back-to-back picks. The No. 23 Phase II overall pick went to Los Gatos, Calif., native Leyton Stenman, who is a right defenseman.
Up next, Sioux City took right winger Peteris Purmalis, a Latvian player listed at 6-foot-2 and 203 pounds.
“I was extremely happy with how we were able to get some many players whom we had ranked highly on our board,” Johnson said. “I think it’s going to be the most competitive camp that we’ve had in the four years we’ve been here.”