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MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Just three days before whacking a hockey puck into a tiny target in an unlikely shot that captivated America, 11-year-old Nate Smith had his arm in a cast.
The Minnesota boy told his father to write his identical twin brother's name on three raffle tickets that gave the family a shot at winning $50,000. His father, Pat Smith, did just that, jotting down the name of Nate's sibling, Nick.
But Nick had other ideas. He wanted to hang out with friends rather than wait around the rink for a contest. By the time of Thursday's contest, Nate's arm was out of the cast. According to their father, Nick told Nate: "If they call my name, you shoot it for me."
So Nate did, slapping a puck into a 1-1/2 inch high by 3-1/2 inch wide target from 89 feet away, a supremely difficult shot.
"I never thought he had a chance of making it," Pat Smith said. "And then he sinks it."
Now it's unclear if the family will receive the funds.
"If the insurance company is looking for a loophole, I think they have one," said Vance Vinar, Jr., who organized the fund-raising event for the Faribault Youth Hockey Association, located near the boys' home in southern Minnesota.
After the event, Pat Smith wrote Nick's name on a form handed to him by organizers. But he started feeling guilty, and later called a representative from the hockey association, admitting that the wrong twin had taken the winning shot.
"You've got to do what's right," he told Reuters. "You don't want to teach kids to lie no matter how much money is involved."
The Owatonna People's Press, in the family's hometown, praised the belated announcement: "They have given their sons a great lesson in honesty. And that is something that is equally worthy of applause."
Carlos Concha, general manager of Odds on Promotion, the Reno, Nevada firm that insured the contest, wasn't sure what he will decide. He is waiting for paperwork verifying the contest's outcome. According to Vinar, all affidavits have been signed except for one from the Smith family.
Vinar watched Nate Smith's unlikely shot from the bench. "I never in my wildest dreams thought it would happen," he said. And then the boy slapped it and the puck skittered across the ice in a very straight line.
Like lots of others, former NHL player Tim Bergland has watched video of Nate Smith's accomplishment.
When he skated for the Washington Capitals, a team Nate says he wants to play for, Bergland participated in a similar contest, but from a shorter distance with a larger target. Only three of about 30 NHL players got it in, and they were professionals.
"Wow, that was like a one-in-a-million type of shot," said Bergland, who is now high school coach in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. "It's amazing it went through."
A decision from the insurance company isn't expected for several weeks, but if it decides against the Smiths, Bergland predicts public outcry. "They will get murdered," he said.
Writing and reporting by Todd Melby; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Cynthia Johnston