DETROIT – There wasn’t a dry eye at Joe Louis Arena Saturday night when the Red Wings’ Military Welcome segment during the second TV timeout of the first period quickly became the best moment of one young guest’s life.
Escely Arias was attending Detroit’s game against Pittsburgh with Brian and Lisa Marr, the parents of her boyfriend and U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Chris Marr. As the three received a standing ovation in honor of the deployed marine they haven’t seen in seven long months, a special video from Chris played on the arena’s Jumbotron bringing tears to their eyes.
There were about to be a few more.
As the cameras returned to Arias and the Marr’s, Chris was standing behind them, tears in his eyes and hands shaking as he hugged his father, his mother and then knelt down on one knee in front of his girlfriend.
She said yes.
“Oh my gosh, no, there’s no words to describe any of this,” said Arias, tears rolling down her cheeks. “Best moment of my life by far.”
While the engagement had been in the works for two months, only Chris, his father, and members of the Red Wings’ marketing staff were privy to the plans.
“I can put it in simple words: I just exhaled for the first time in six weeks,” Brian Marr said. “That’s about it. Between the logistics in getting him here, setting everything up, flying him in last night, thank God it was last night and not tonight. I had to tell everybody, my wife included, that he was flying in (Sunday). There was a lot of moving parts to this, and then the snow, but it all came together. So it was meant to be.”
Although he was unusually calm before the game, Chris was overwhelmed by emotions when he saw his family and fiancé, and couldn’t have asked for a more perfect moment to propose to the love of his life.
“I think it worked pretty well, I put the odds in my favor so she wouldn’t say no,” said Chris as he smiled with tears of happiness filling his eyes. “I’m still nervous. I still don’t know what’s going on.
“She’s my best friend. I love her to do death. Everything worked out perfectly. She’s been there for everything so it’s about time.”
Last month, Chris asked Arias’ mother for her hand in marriage, and Katie Kondakor was more than happy to give her blessing and witness the best moment of her daughter’s life.
“Can you see my mascara running? Happy, sad, I mean she’s my baby,” Kondakor said. “I’m elated though, beyond words.
“They complement each other wonderfully and I’m glad he chose her and she’s chosen him as well.”
The newly engaged couple has known each other since high school, and started dating when Chris became a marine. The Northville, Michigan is attached to the Security Forces Infantry and has been stationed in Kings Bay, Georgia, 1,025 miles away from home.
Although Arias wasn’t expecting to see Chris until Sunday morning, she had an inkling there was going to be a surprise at the game.
“I had a feeling, I had such a slight feeling and then it happened,” Arias said. “I’m speechless. Absolutely speechless.”
Between tears, laughs, hugs, kisses, and more tears, Chris and Arias received congratulations from friends, family and fans that were touched by the engagement, one woman even telling Arias that it was the best hockey moment she had ever seen.
The 20-year-old couldn’t agree more.
“Best moment of my entire life,” Arias said, turning to look at her fiancé. “I’m so happy you’re home.”
It was a moment that touched everyone at The Joe, and one that the couple will remember for the rest of their lives – a heartwarming holiday miracle in Hockeytown.
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