Celine Dion motivates Montreal hockey team amid private battle with rare disorder

Celine Dion is back in the public eye, meeting and posing with hockey players a year after she revealed her stiff-person syndrome diagnosis.

The “My Heart Will Go On” singer and her son, René-Charles Angélil, met with the Montreal Canadiens in Las Vegas on Monday as they faced the Golden Knights at the T-Mobile Arena. Dion, wearing a white puffer vest and a beige sweatsuit, also met coach and hockey veteran Martin St. Louis.

“I remember when you were 14 years old, you sang for the pope. ‘Une colombe,’ ” St. Louis said in French of the singer’s 1984 performance at the Olympic Stadium in Greece.

“It’s been a while since then,” she responded. “We’ve changed a little since then, but not too much.”

Dion, who has kept her battle with stiff-person syndrome private, also met several players and shared some words of wisdom. “Stay strong, healthy — nothing wrong. Do what you do best or more,” she told the players in English.

The five-time Grammy Award-winning singer, 55, also spent her time in the locker room joking with the hockey stars. Posing with with the team, the Quebec native quipped, “Squeeze in. Let’s not be shy. You smell great.”

“Thank you Celine Dion for your generosity,” Canadiens communications vice president Chantal Machabée said in French in the caption of her Instagram photo with the singer. “All the team was so happy to meet you and your family.”

In December 2022, the performer announced her stiff-person syndrome diagnosis. She said in a video — shared in English and in French — that the neurological disorder “affects something like one in a million people.”

The Mayo Clinic defines stiff-person syndrome as an autoimmune disorder of the nervous system that often results in “progressive, severe muscle stiffness and spasms of the lower extremities and back.”

Since revealing her diagnosis, Dion canceled a slew of shows. In May, she called off her Courage world tour. A release on the superstar’s website said stiff-person syndrome “prevents her from performing.”

“It’s not fair to you to keep postponing the shows, and even though it breaks my heart, it’s best that we cancel everything now until I’m really ready to be back on stage again,” Dion said in the release. “I want you all to know, I’m not giving up… and I can’t wait to see you again!”

The singer’s sister, Claudette Dion, spoke to Le Journal de Montréal in August about the singer’s time away from music. She said that Dion has been working with medical experts and researchers to learn more about the disorder, and that her sister needs rest.

“She always goes above all, she always tries to be the greatest, the strongest,” she said. “There’s a time when your little heart and your little body speak to you. It’s important [to listen].”

In another interview, Claudette Dion detailed what stiff-person syndrome looks like for her sister, including spasms that are “impossible to control.”

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, there is no treatment that cures stiff-person syndrome. But Dion’s family still maintains hope.

“We’re crossing our fingers that researchers will find a remedy for this awful illness,” Claudette told Hello!

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