Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

You call the $50,000 shot August 19, 2011

IF YOU ARE BITTEN by a bat that flies away, you should expect to undergo a series of rabies shots.

If you win $50,000 while assuming the identity of someone else, you should expect fall-out from your actions.

Right about now you’re likely wondering why I’m writing about bats and bills all in the same post. Well, both made the news in my community of Faribault this week. One has garnered national attention, the other not.

First, the bat bite, not because it’s less important than the $50,000, but because it’s easier to write about and no gray area exists. You get bitten by a bat that can’t be caught, like a 9-year-old Nerstrand boy did in his family’s barn recently, and you get rabies shots. Simple. Black-and-white.

But, if you potentially win $50,000 like 11-year-old Nick Nate Smith of Owatonna did last week by shooting a hockey puck from 89 feet into a 1.5-inch by 3.5 inch hole at a Faribault Hockey Association fundraiser, you’re talking an entirely different story.

On the surface, this would seem black-and-white. Accomplish the amazing feat, win the prize.

However, Nate isn’t Nick. And it was Nick, Nate’s identical twin, whose name was pulled for the chance to score the $50,000 by sinking the puck into that incredibly small space.

The problem, however, is that Nick wasn’t in the hockey arena when his name was drawn, so Nate stepped in for his brother, made the shot and supposedly won the $50,000.

That is until the Smith family admitted to event organizers that Nate had subbed for Nick.

Now a Reno, Nevada, insurance company for the puck-shot event is investigating, the $50,000 payment remains in limbo and the story of the amazing shot and the follow-up controversy has gone national.

In our house, we’ve discussed this whole $50,000 hockey puck debacle numerous times already. Opinions have varied from:

  • Just give the kid the $50,000.
  • Why did the Smiths tell them it was Nate?
  • He doesn’t deserve the $50,000. Nate isn’t Nick and the family wasn’t intially honest.
  • What if a friend had stepped in and taken the shot? Would they give him the money?

Can you guess which comment is mine?

You better believe that the second response, “Why did the Smiths tell them it was Nate?”, is not my statement and resulted in a lecture from me about honesty and how the family eventually would have gotten “caught.”

I don’t pretend to know every detail related to the hockey puck shot event. But I do know this much: Nate isn’t Nick.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN to offer your opinion. Would you award the $50,000 to Nate Smith? Why or why not? Vote by submitting a comment.

IN A 24-HOUR unscientific online poll conducted by The Faribault Daily News, 63 percent of the 245 respondents said Nate Smith should get the $50,000. Thirty-two percent said he shouldn’t. And five percent checked “I don’t know.”

MEDIA FOCUS on the Smith story has been substantial. Click on the sources below to read some of the coverage.

CBS The Early Show

The Faribault Daily News:  the initial story published on August 12 and a follow-up story published on August 14

ABC News

National Public Radio

BY THE WAY, my comment is the third one: He doesn’t deserve the $50,000. Nate isn’t Nick and the family wasn’t intially honest. Choose to agree or disagree. It’s your shot.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


16 Responses to “You call the $50,000 shot”

  1. Bats carry the rabies virus a lot it seems. My husband got bit by one that was sleeping in the folds of our canvas tent trailer that he was taking down in our front yard about a dozen years ago. He ended up taking the series of shots. So yes, if you get bit by a bat, unless you have the bat you will need to take the shots. But, unlike the earlier shots which needed to be injected into the stomach and were quite painful, I understand, they mostly did the series in his hips. Still painful but not as bad.
    The kid who made the hockey shot in his brother’s place made a remarkable shot. They did the right thing by telling the sponsors what he had done. Forfeit the money? If they are following the rules they set up for the shot that should happen. Sound like it might pay off in the end for him if he becomes a champion hockey player earning millions.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I’m sorry your husband had to go through the series of rabies shots. I’m sure that’s quite an unpleasant experience. My eldest daughter was bitten by a dog in Minneapolis recently while walking through a neighborhood. The dog’s leash was too long, allowing it to reach the sidewalk. The dog owner said her dog was up to date on its rabies shots, but animal control quarantined it. I’m thankful for that because the dog owner was not at all apologetic. My daughter just got word that the dog is not rabid. Whew.

      As for the hockey shot, I agree that it’s remarkable. I’m pretty sure the decision on whether to award the $50,000 will be based on whether rules were followed. I am bothered, however, by the fact that the family was apparently not upfront right away that Nate made the shot, not Nick. Yes, they were correct to come clean, but why not immediately?

  2. Amy Says:

    I’d like to see honesty rewarded, so I’d say give the kid the money. Or half the money, or something like that. The parents set an excellent example to their kids by owning up to that at the risk of losing a whole lotta cash.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks for sharing your opinion, Amy, and I can sort of see where you are coming from with the honesty bit. The family was honest, but on the day after the big shot.

      If you click to the ABC News article, you will find a quote from Pat Smith stating that he initially said the shot was Nick’s shot. That’s what really, really troubles me. Why did he say that when Nate was the one who made the shot?

  3. Amy Says:

    I think under the pressure of the moment, and how flustering it must have been–I mean, who would ever expect a kid to make that shot??–the parents made a mistake. It could happen to anyone (myself included). Especially with $50K involved! The fact that they stepped up the next day, voluntarily, and told the truth is admirable.

  4. bevalker Says:

    What was the purpose of the contest? Give the money to some families who have fallen on hard times or some other worthy cause that can’t get any help due to wasteful spending!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      As I understand it, the entire hockey event was a fundraiser for the Faribault Hockey Association. I assume, although I don’t know for certain, that monies raised from raffle ticket sales for the chance to shoot for $50,000 would also go to the association.

      According to an article in The Faribault Daily News, the Smiths planned to put some of the $50,000 toward the twins’ college educations. Nate Smith was also quoted as saying some of the money would go to Shattuck-St. Mary’s School “to donate the money to our hockey association.” Shattuck-St. Mary’s is a prestigious, private college prep school in Faribault, which Nate and Nick Smith attend. The school is known internationally for its outstanding hockey program.

      I checked the SSM website and found that, for the 2011 – 2012 school year, boarding student tuition is $39,950 and day student tuition is $27,800.

      Bev, you make a valid point that perhaps some of the money, if awarded, could go toward those in need.

  5. Bernie Bowman Says:

    There has been a lot of publicity on this…they probably should not get the money, but I bet some big company or person is going to make sure they get something out of this….especially if they aren’t awarded the money….it is a hard call, but the fact is, it was the wrong kid, but I bet they will all be winners in the end!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I’m not placing any bets on how this turns out.

      Are you thinking maybe some other entity will strike a deal with the Smith family and they’ll end up with money even if the insurance company doesn’t award them the $50,000?

  6. Sara Says:

    I’m going to guess that with the week they spent in New York making appearances on TV shows like the Today Show & ESPN, they’ve probably made $50,000 and then some 😉

  7. Jim Smith Says:

    It is amazing how so much conjecture by people who were not in the arena can lead this story so far awry. I was there, I saw it first hand. The father was not on the ice. The pandemonium was almost electric. These were hockey people who knew just how amazing this shot was. From the referees to the professional players all were stunned. People sitting near me asked “what did he win?” I shouted $50,000 and they thought they had not heard me correctly. When the noise finally died down and the announcer was able to interview Nick/Nate everyone seemed to be at a loss for words. The game started immediately and I suppose the son soon after was reunited with his father and brother
    Perhaps the father was debating the options that night. But the family discussed and decided by morning that honesty and integrity were more important than the money.
    I think this is the most important lesson here. Parents teaching all of us about making right choices. That is what has made this story so compelling. Why it has garnered so much media attention. It’s not about the money but about the honesty of a family.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Jim, I was not in attendance so I am relying on the accuracy of media reporting on this event. I’ve read stories in many sources.

      No doubt, this shot was phenomenal.

      Yes, the family was honest with event organizers, but (from what I’ve read) the day AFTER the amazing shot was made. That is what bothers me: the “day AFTER” part.

  8. Jim Smith Says:

    At that point who would he go to? There was no one in charge but an announcer who was not accessible to the public. Have you never slept on a decision. I certainy cannot chastise the family for that. I would not be so critical, for fear i may bitten by a bat.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Jim, I like your quick sense of humor. Excellent. I suspect we’ve all been bitten by a few bats, including me. And, yes, for the record, I’ve slept overnight on a decision, sometimes way longer than a night. But nothing, of course, like this case.

      I am simply sharing my opinion, as you are. That’s one of the rights we have living in a democracy–the right to express our viewpoints. That said, we will have to choose to respectfully disagree.

      I do appreciate the time you’ve taken to write and offer your insights. Yours were especially interesting given you were at the event. Thank you for commenting.

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