SAN JOSE, Calif. — Pete DeBoer was a 17-year-old kid at prom when he met Muhammad Ali.
The San Jose Sharks head coach offered his recollections of the boxing great unprompted ahead of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final, which takes place Saturday evening at the SAP Center.
DeBoer recalled the memory of Ali quite clearly, though it happened 30 years ago. Ali passed away at the age of 74 on Friday.
Attending his high school prom in the mid-1980s, DeBoer was in the lobby of the Royal Connaught Hotel in Hamilton when Ali and his entourage walked in. Sensing an opportunity to come into contact with the legendary figure, DeBoer approached the group and asked if he could meet the famed boxer. He was told to come up to Ali's room five minutes later, which DeBoer did alongside a few friends.
"He got out a Qur'an for each of us," DeBoer recalled of meeting Ali. "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 experience he hasn't forgotten.
DeBoer said he keeps only a few pieces of sports memorabilia in his basement. There's a Wayne Gretzky stick, a Bobby Orr print, a Mike Weir Masters print as well as the Qur'an signed by Ali.
He looks back fondly on his brush with greatness.
"It was an unbelievable life experience for me," he said. "I think, considering the circumstances, how this guy transcended not just boxing and sport, but how many people he's touched, it's an appropriate story to tell."