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Habs, Youppi! help spread holiday cheer

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

Alex Kovalev made quite the impression on the young patients in his inaugural visit to the Montreal Children's hospital.

MONTREAL -- The Canadiens' annual hospital visits brought the usual cheer to sick children at both the St. Justine and Montreal Children's Hospitals on Thursday, but a number of fresh faces stole the show.

Youppi! was understandably quite the hit in his team hospital visit debut. The big guy ended the day with a sore paw and serious case of writer's cramp after signing a staggering number of autographs for his little fans.

Also making quite the impression in their inaugural Canadiens holiday hospital visit were Alex Kovalev and Alexander Perezhogin. Despite having been out of the lineup for almost a month as he continues to work his way back from knee surgery, Kovalev was more than happy to double-shift on Thursday as he brightened the day of all the children he possibly could. The father of two had no trouble connecting with his new friends who couldn't get enough of No. 27. Young Perezhogin also showed a remarkable knack for making kids smile in his first hospital appearance.

Steve Begin may have also taken his first steps towards his post-NHL career on Thursday by serving as lead vocalist for a few Christmas carols.  He and his teammates did their best to hit the high notes before a standing-room only crowd in St. Justine's auditorium.

While the players thought they would the spared the usual scrutiny they face on a daily basis by the Montreal media, they were asked a number of probing questions by some remarkably up-to-speed young fans.

In all, more than 300 children were showered with gifts and provided with the undivided attention of their Canadiens heroes on what invariably goes down as one of the most memorable days of any hockey season in Montreal.

Manny Almela is a writer for

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