Boston, MA --
With 21 wins in just 30 games, the Boston Bruins have already given a fantastic gift to the Boston community. On Tuesday, December 16, the Bruins continued their generous ways with their annual toy delivery to local Boston hospitals.
B's Hall of Famer Ray Bourque started the holiday toy shopping and delivery tradition when he was captain, and for the past three seasons assistant captain P.J. Axelsson has taken responsibility for the program, which is designed to provide a little cheer for kids who are not able to celebrate the holidays at home.
"It was such a good thing that we were doing, so I wanted to continue doing it," said Axelsson. "It's actually nice to get a smile out of the kids during their hard times."
The players and coaches were divided into seven groups, with one group visiting each of the following hospitals: Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, Children's Hospital, Mass General Hospital, Shriners Hospital for Children, Boston Medical Center, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Franciscan Hospital for Children.
At Children's Hospital, Boston, Axelsson was joined by goaltender Manny Fernandez and forward Patrice Bergeron
. They were wearing the Bruins new alternate jersey and completed their outfits with holiday hats.
Hockey players are competitive, and the hospital experience was no exception: Bergeron pleaded with teenage patients for them to declare the star forward's luminescent Christmas tree hat the "coolest," while Fernandez in his Santa hat and Axelsson in his elf hat chuckled.
Bergeron was pretty excited about his headgear and was happy to trade his hockey helmet for a Christmas tree.
"It was the easiest choice I've had to make in choosing a hat in my whole life," he said. "I think when it lights up like that, the kids are looking at you funny, and they are [already] smiling just looking at you."
Mirroring the other six locations, after delivering their portion of over $25,000 worth of gifts donated by the players and coaches, the three players signed Bruins blankets, pillowcases and pucks and stopped in rooms of kids of Children's Hospital Boston's comprehensive center for pediatric health care.
As the players gathered around the bedside for pictures with the patients, the smiles on the kids' faces lit the room: a gleaming beacon of hope during a time in these young patients' lives when all else seemed grim.
Enthusiastic responses like, "Wow," and, "This is amazing," from the children at the sight of the players' rivaled the same reactions given by fans that are fortunate to be in good enough health to see the Bruins stars on the ice at TD Banknorth Garden.
For Axelsson, it was the smiles that truly made his experience rewarding: "Some of them are in a lot of pain, and you walk in there, and they look up and go, 'Wow, the Bruins!' It's really nice to see."
Sarrah Donovan, a 9-year-old patient at Children's, boasted about her air hockey skills, challenging Fernandez to a game, claiming, "Yeah, I think I can beat you!"
For just a few hours, and in each of the seven hospitals, the Bruins were able to make the day of countless children.
But while this event truly was for the kids, often times it was the parents who realized the importance of a hospital visit by the Black & Gold. Many of the adults thanked the players for their generosity of time and wished the best for the remainder of the season.
It was Cindy McGrath, Zach's mother, who found herself choked up, with tears running down her face as she took it all in.
"It was really special today," she said. "An experience like this can turn a negative experience like being stuck in a hospital, into a truly positive experience."
It was an experience that forced the Bruins to reflect on their own blessings.
"We have to realize that there are a lot of kids there, unfortunately at the hospital, and they don't have a chance to go out," said Bergeron. "They're spending Christmas lying in bed.
"Maybe they're going to think about the visit for a couple of days and take their mind off their illness."
Should that be the case, it would truly be the Bruins biggest victory of the season.