MONTREAL - Defenseman Ben Chiarot has participated in quite a few children's hospital visits over the years, but this one was different.
In addition to being his first as a member of the Canadiens, it was also his first as a parent.
His daughter, Emmerson, was born six months ago, which immediately altered his priorities and changed his outlook on life.
"Just the way you think completely changes. It becomes so much less about yourself and more about what she needs and what's important for her," said Chiarot, who visited youngsters of all ages at the Montreal Children's Hospital on Thursday afternoon. "That's the biggest change. Everything becomes more about your family."
With that in mind, Chiarot went about bringing joy and encouragement to patients and their family members with a new perspective.
"It kind of hits a different note with you when you see kids here that aren't much older than my daughter," explained Chiarot. "To see a smile on their face and know what it would mean if I was in that situation, it definitely strikes some different feelings. We're just so lucky and blessed to have everything go healthy and happy with Emmerson. You just realize how lucky you are."
Like Chiarot, captain Shea Weber is a father as well, albeit not a new one.
Weber and his wife, Bailey, have three young children - Beckett, 5, Kenley, 4, and Maddix, 1 - which certainly adds an extra dimension to these annual visits.
"It's never easy coming here, to be honest. It's tough. Having kids myself, it's difficult to see kids in this situation," said Weber. "Being in the position that we are to give back and just put a smile on their face, and just to take their mind off what they're going through, it's pretty important."
It certainly is. Nevertheless, Weber takes comfort in the fact that institutions like the Montreal Children's Hospital are prepared to deliver outstanding care should the need arise.
"With kids, you know that there are so many different things that can go wrong. I'm lucky enough to have healthy kids," mentioned Weber. "They're still young and some stuff could happen, but you come here and you see the care that they have. The doctors and nurses that take care of these kids are special, so being able to come here and help out makes it even more special."
Now a father of two, goaltender Carey Price has always been impressed by the facilities and treatment options available for children in Montreal.
"It's good to see they're a team and a family here," said Price, who was a popular figure at the Montreal Children's Hospital during his two-hour stay. "It's something the players should take note of."
And similar to Chiarot and Weber, the 32-year-old Anahim Lake, BC native is adamant that visits like these serve as important reminders as well.
"It definitely hits a lot harder having kids of my own now," mentioned Price, whose daughters, Liv, 3, and Millie, 11 months, are his pride and joy. "We're really fortunate with our two girls that they've been really healthy, and coming here is definitely sobering."
Keeping the tradition alive
The Canadiens pursued a tradition of more than 50 years on Thursday. In addition to visiting the Montreal Children's Hospital, players were also present at the Shriners Hospital for Children and CHU Sainte-Justine.
Claude Julien's troops met with children in their rooms, posed for pictures, signed autographs, and presented each youngster with a gift as well.
The team was split up into different groups to give as many children as possible the opportunity to share some precious moments with their favorite Habs.