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Helping out, one step at a time

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL - Lars isn't the only member of the Eller family with quick feet.

In conjunction with a fundraising campaign to benefit the Just For Kids Foundation of the Montreal's Children's Hospital, his wife, Julie, will be taking part in the Dancing With The Stars gala at Théâtre Telus on St. Denis St. on February 3.

Julie Eller at practice with her partner and choreographer Julio Hong.

"We were approached by a friend last summer. We think it's an excellent initiative," explained Lars, who has been profoundly touched by the kids he's had the opportunity to meet during the Canadiens' annual hospital visits dating back to his joining the team in 2010.

Now in its 28th year of operation, the Just For Kids Foundation's 2015 campaign is focused on raising funds to support the otolaryngology, cervicofacial surgery and urology departments at the Montreal Children's Hospital.

"Since we arrived in town, Lars has visited the children's hospitals in Montreal at least once a year. Every time he came home from those visits, he was very quiet," mentioned Julie, who is the proud mother of the family's young daughter, Sophia. "Then, we had a baby girl of our own. As a parent, it's awful to think that your child is also going to get sick. When I was approached about this project, I didn't hesitate for a single second. It was impossible for me to refuse this offer."

While Julie might've been presented with a proposal she simply couldn't turn down, it's safe to say she really didn't know what kind of journey she'd be embarking on. A former elite swimmer in her native Denmark, she was far more comfortable in a pool than on stage.

"I had no dance experience," confided Eller, a few minutes before beginning her practice session with her partner, Julio Hong, a Cuban dance choreographer. "I started back in November. It started off pretty slow, a few hours a week. It was like an introduction. In December, it was quiet because of the holidays. But now, it's five days a week, about an hour-and-a-half every day."

In Julie's case, the expression "Once an Athlete, Always an Athlete" still rings true today. Even if she left the competitive swimming world years ago, her desire to perform at the highest possible level when necessary has never faded away.

"When I'm working to achieve a goal, I'm not going to stop until I reach it. That's something I apply in different aspects of my life. When you competed at a high level, you just have that in you," offered Eller, who has been married to the Canadiens' No. 81 for four years.

Her husband couldn't agree more. He fully expects his wife to deliver a flawless performance when she takes the stage in early February, battling it out with five other couples.

"I had no dance experience" - Julie Eller

"I'm expecting her to offer up a show that's just about perfect. She's such a perfectionist and she really puts her heart into it," said Lars, who won't be able to watch Julie's performance in person as the Canadiens will be taking on the Buffalo Sabres that night at the Bell Centre. "I've seen her practice sessions in person and I can honestly say that dancing is anything but simple. It might look easy on television, but it's not. But, I know that when she puts everything she's learned together, it will be superb."

If Julie can count on the unwavering support of her dance partner when it comes to learning the Samba, she can say the same about her husband, even if he's far more comfortable at dancing around opposing defenders on the ice than dancing to a beat.

"I try to help her out at home, but I don't know how useful I can be. She could dance with a cone and it was be just as effective," cracked the Canadiens centerman.

"He helps out a little bit," confirmed Julie. "We practice together in the basement. Our daughter participates, too. She watches us and tries to imitate what we do. But, in her case, it's mostly about jumping in the air."

So, will those invited to galas or cocktail dinners down the road have the chance to see Julie and Lars strut their stuff on the dance floor?

"I really doubt it," offered Julie with a laugh. "He's not really trying to learn. He gives me some feedback. That's as far as it goes. I think he'd rather stick to playing on the ice."

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To learn more about the event or to make a donation, click here.

Follow Julie Eller's experience on Twitter here.

Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.

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