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A very personal gift

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Hundreds of fans took to the arena floor at the Bell Centre in conjunction with the Canadiens-evenko Blood Drive on Tuesday.

Heeding Héma-Québec's call to make a difference by donating approximately ½ litre of blood, donors were also given the opportunity to meet and interact with Canadiens players, in addition to members of the coaching staff.

Michel Therrien’s troops were pleased to spend time with donors, who came out in droves to support a worthy cause.

“I think it’s very important to be here to generate awareness for good initiatives like this one. I think it’s a responsibility for professional athletes to attend these types of events. The fact that the Montreal Canadiens step up and make players available makes it even that much more special,” offered P.K. Subban, who was greeted with plenty of enthusiasm as he made his way around a jam packed rink. “Montreal has got the best fans in the world. They’re very passionate. Whenever you can use initiatives like this to get the fans out to support it and create awareness, it’s always great. It’s always fun to come out and interact with them.”

While Subban is a Canadiens Blood Drive vet,  Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau made his first appearance at the event since joining the Habs over the summer.

“It’s fun and it’s for a great cause. I’ve never experienced something like this with any of the other teams I’ve played with before. I think it’s a great idea. It’s good to have the players out to attract people to the event,” explained Parenteau. “I know sometimes it’s tough to get people to donate blood, so I think it’s an original idea to get the players out here to help. I really enjoy it.”

The same can be said for the donors themselves, many of whom have a strong personal connection to blood drives like this one.

“This marks the 40th time I’ve donated blood. My son died from leukemia. We stopped counting after he’d received 115 blood transfusions. I wouldn’t be able to give enough blood to make up for just how much he received,” confided Pointe-Claire resident, Helene Lacroix, who donated blood alongside her 19-year-old daughter, Clara. “I’ve always given blood. I think it’s important.”

Montreal Canadiens owner, president and CEO, Geoff Molson, shared similar thoughts on Tuesday afternoon.

“This is one of the best turnouts in the five years I’ve been here,” mentioned Molson. “The players always want to give back to the community. They have a very busy schedule, but there are certain events in the year that they like to come out for and support, and this is one of them. If you explain to them that these people are saving lives by giving blood, it resonates with them. They’re doing a good thing.”

The Canadiens Blood Drive was initiated by Jean Beliveau and Claude Mouton back in 1981. According to Héma-Québec, it has helped save over 100,000 lives to date.

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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