BROSSARD - Nate Thompson always makes a point of closing out every pre-game warmup with an act of kindness.
If you're taking in a Canadiens game at the Bell Centre or on the road, pay close attention to the 34-year-old centerman's effort to consistently throw pucks to youngsters in the stands before heading to the locker room.
"I don't know if it's superstitious or just routine, maybe a little bit of both. I usually grab four pucks and throw two on one side and two on the other, just to keep it even," explained Thompson with a laugh. "That way, it keeps everyone happy."
According to the 12-year NHL veteran, the practice has been going on for quite a while. It's his way of giving back to the fans for their support and helping to cultivate the sport in the process.
"The fans are a huge part of our game. Without them, we wouldn't be where we're at," said Thompson. "I think it's also another way to grow the game. You give a puck to a kid, next thing you know he becomes pretty obsessed with hockey and next thing you know you might have another future NHLer on your hands. I know it happened with me. I think I'm a prime example. It's a really good thing to do and it can go a long way. At the end of the day, you put a smile on a kid's face."
When Thompson mentions that "it happened with me," he is referencing an experience he had a long time ago while watching a college hockey game back home in Alaska. He was maybe three or four years old at the time.
"It was the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves up there. I was at a game and one of the players threw me a puck and a stick and it really kind of stuck with me. It was one of those things where if I ever made it, I was going to do the same thing," recalled Thompson. "I really try and make sure that I give it to the kids. I think if you're a kid and you get a puck during warmups at an NHL game, it's a pretty exciting thing."
Thompson has received some cool shout outs on social media for his gift-giving as a member of the Habs.
There was this one from the Canadiens' stop in New Jersey on February 25.
How cute is this adorable message from a fan in Columbus just last week?
Then, there's this heartfelt note from a fan who took in the tilt last Saturday night in Winnipeg.
Know that Thompson appreciates all of the kind words you send along to him.
"Anytime I see messages like that from moms and dads, talking about their kids, it puts a smile on my face, too," concluded Thompson. "I'm just glad that I'm able to make the parents and the kids happy with whatever I can do. Whether it's throwing them a puck or squirting water at them, it's just about having fun with it. That's what it comes down to."