The Colorado Avalanche players got dressed and headed down the hallway to be greeted by hundreds of fans. The music was at full blast as they got ready to step into the bright lights once again, but this time they weren't taking the ice at Pepsi Center.
Instead, they were being introduced to the crowd as guest servers, complete with Avalanche-branded aprons, at the 2019 Charity Brunch, hosted by the Avs Better Halves.
For the 22nd season, the Charity Brunch was once again a heartwarming event that brought together children affected by serious illnesses, their families, generous donors and members of the Avalanche. This year's brunch was on Feb. 17 at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center.
During the day, each player got to meet with a child and their family and hear their individual story of a medical challenge they have overcome or are currently battling. After getting to know each other, the players and their kids got to play games and exchange autographs before preparing for the famous runway walk that concludes each Charity Brunch.
While the players served brunch to the guests, the kids got dressed up to look the part when they take the runway with the Avalanche.
Video: The Avs walk the fashion runway with the kid models
The fashion show has become the highlight of the event where the players and their kids can show off their moves in front of the hundreds of fans in attendance. Many of the pairings choreographed a dance and a pose at the end of the runway for all the families and fans to see.
For forward Matt Calvert and his new friend Everette, 5, it was a chance to learn some moves that you can't teach on the ice.
"He said he loved to dance and he had a ton of energy, so it started off with the waving and then we did some kind of karate dance move," said Calvert, who was at his first brunch. "He does karate in his spare time, so I'm not really sure what you call the move, but we had a lot of fun with it and I had a great day with him."
The brunch offered Calvert and his teammates a chance to focus on something larger than the game of hockey and help the children have a care-free day.
"I think the biggest thing is the innocence of being a kid and having fun," Calvert said. "We're complaining about the smallest things in life, and these guys are going through big things. They come here, and they forget about it and show us what it's like to be a kid again."
Brunch veteran Nikita Zadorov has previous experience on how special the brunch is to the children and their families.
"There's not that many events for these kids where they can enjoy themselves like that in front of their parents and do something crazy and just have something fun to do at the same time, so it's really enjoyable," Zadorov said.
Video: Nikita Zadorov meets Hayden at the Charity Brunch
Zadorov was paired with Hayden, a dancing sensation whose moves during the fashion show could only be stopped when the 6-foot-5 defenseman picked up the 9-year-old and carried him backstage. It was a heart-melting moment that Zadorov was happy to be a part of.
"He stole the show definitely, he was great. He enjoyed it and that's the best thing," said Zadorov. "You try to get communication with the kid, get on the same page and then the most important thing, make sure they have fun out there and my guy had fun. He enjoyed it. He had a dance-off at the end, and it was great for him. I had unbelievable time as well."
In a day where the biggest stars were the smallest kids, Zadorov and his teammates were happy to make new, meaningful connections and learn something from these incredible children and their strength.
"They teach me how to smile no matter what," Zadorov said. "We all know the situation they are in, and it's great that they've been having fun and enjoying it and don't look back. That's the biggest thing."