OTTAWA - You might remember a story from last March where Ryan O'Reilly brought a team of First Nation hockey players and their families to Ottawa to watch the Blues play the Senators at Canadian Tire Centre.
According to reports, that First Nation team had been subjected to hurtful comments and chants from opposing players, coaches, fans and even referees in a Quebec City hockey tournament the previous May.
"It was upsetting," O'Reilly told stlouisblues.com at the time. "That's not what the game is about. We say Hockey Is For Everyone, and that was just disgusting. There's no place in the game for (that)… I just want to tell (these kids) 'Keep enjoying and keep loving playing the game. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't.'"
O'Reilly did his part to right a wrong last season, purchasing tickets for 35 players and their families to attend the game between the Blues and Senators. He also met the team, signed autographs, posed for pictures and even introduced them to some of his Blues teammates.
Seven months later, O'Reilly and the Blues returned to Ottawa for Thursday's game - a 6-4 Blues' win - and there was Tommy Neeposh, the manager for the First Nation team. He brought a few gifts to present to O'Reilly to show his team's appreciation for the kind gesture he made last season.
Neeposh told O'Reilly that he had been named an honorary First Nation team member and presented him with a personalized jersey from the First Nation Elite team. In addition, Neeposh gave O'Reilly a pair of moccasins for everyone in his family, including his wife, Dayna, son, Jameson, and parents, Brian and Bonnie.
"It was an extremely nice gesture from him," O'Reilly said Friday. "From the indigenous community, moccasins are a staple and to get ones like that is pretty amazing. And the jersey is beautiful - the detail in it, it's something I will hang up back home. It's an honor to receive. Getting something like that is special, for sure.
"You can tell they're great people, and (Tommy) is just a real genuine guy that does so much for his own community," O'Reilly added. "To go above and beyond to do something special for myself like that, I can't thank him enough."
Video: O'Reilly hosts First Nation team in Ottawa