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Man of heart

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – Brandon Prust might’ve spent his fair share of time in the penalty box, but he’s a gentleman in every sense of the word, especially when it comes to performing community service.

While his style of play has evolved significantly since making his NHL debut with the Calgary Flames back in 2006-07, Prust’s commitment to helping others has remained unchanged.

Involved in a variety of causes since childhood, the London, ON native has always been a staunch supporter of initiatives geared towards the health and well-being of children. That’s why Prust elected to found Prusty 4 Kids, which helps patients at the Children’s Hospital of London.

“The charitable work I’m involved in back home in London is important. I’ve participated in many golf tournaments for different people and different organizations. It inspired me to get involved, too. I think it’s special that I can make a difference by doing something unique. I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish,” confided Prust, who got his foundation started with the help of a good friend.

“Prusty 4 Kids is an initiative I got going along with my good buddy, Dave Moore. He handles the logistics of it all. We work well together. Whether it comes to securing gifts for an auction or convincing players to get on board, I’m involved. I take part in all of the meetings,” affirmed Prust, who finds time to stay involved despite a hectic schedule during the hockey season. “We definitely need help. There’s a group of women at the children’s hospital that give us a hand. It was new for us.”

When Prust returns to Southwestern Ontario in the offseason, the 30-year-old left-winger always makes a trip to the hospital to comfort youngsters and put a smile on their faces. The eight-year NHL veteran is adamant those visits mean more to him than any paycheque ever could.

“It’s great to see that you can make a difference. I’ve always been involved with the children’s hospital. Going to visit the kids, seeing how they’re battling tough times, seeing them smile, laugh and do all kinds of things, it really is a cool feeling,” mentioned Prust, who also visited the facility back when he was still playing in the Junior ranks as a member of the OHL’s London Knights. “It’s really close to my heart. That’s why I always wanted to work to help kids. My community always treated me well, and it’s great to be able to give back.”

If every one of Prust’s visits with a sick child is an unforgettable experience for the talented forward, a few youngsters have found a special place for the Canadiens’ No. 8 in their hearts, too.

“I became friends with a few of the kids at the hospital back home. I remember one kid in particular, Liam Hepburn. He was there during our first tournament. His family was there, and they explained how he was battling cancer. He’s probably around 15 years old now. I think he was eight years old when I met him,” offered Prust, who still sees Liam every summer after the young man wrapped up his treatment several years ago and is doing very well today.

Prust’s community work isn’t limited to the London area alone. Over time, the Habs’ tough guy has learned that small everyday gestures can go a long way as well.

“I have a friend who lives in the area. He’s a minor hockey coach. One day after a practice, he came by with 20 pucks for me to sign. Every week, he gives a puck to his team’s star of the week. Every player will have a chance to be a star, obviously, because he’ll give a puck out to each of the kids. I enjoy doing that type of thing,” insisted Prust, who was also the spokesperson for the PROCURE campaign against prostate cancer back in November.

“Here in Quebec, I try to associate myself with causes when I have the chance. The guys from #bowvember approached me, and I thought it was an excellent idea to help collect funds for the fight against prostate cancer. I was assured that the funds would all remain in the province,” added Prust, who fully understands the importance of helping those residing in his hockey home, in addition to making certain that all funds collected, no matter the cause, end up in the right hands.

Now in his third season in a Canadiens uniform, Prust feels a real sense of belonging to Montreal, a city that he insists embraced him from the start.

“You never know how long you’re going to stay in a particular market, but I came to Montreal and Montreal has been very welcoming. Whether it’s the fans or the organization, everyone showed a great deal of appreciation towards me, and they’ve been good to me. It’s important to do everything in your power to show that same appreciation back,” indicated Prust, who is the boyfriend of renowned Quebec television host, Maripier Morin.

While many of his teammates reside in Brossard in close proximity to Quartier Dix30 and the Bell Sports Complex, and others reside in condos in the Old Port, Prust prefers to call the Plateau home.

“That’s what I like. I like the vibe of the city. It reminds me a bit of New York. I like being a part of the city’s culture. I live in a very francophone neighborhood. It’s cool and unique. I don’t think we’ll move. We love the neighborhood. You never know what the future holds, but we’d like to stay,” mentioned Prust, who can often be seen taking a Sunday afternoon stroll on Mount-Royal or enjoying a cup of coffee at a café on Laurier.

“I have to admit that I still haven’t had the chance to try a Bixi. But, I’ll often go for walks on Mount Royal. I enjoy walking in Montreal. I’ll definitely add the Bixi to my list of things to do, though,” added Prust with a smile.

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

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