Monday, December 14, was a busy day for the Canes players. Following practice at the RecZone, almost the entire team dispersed to four local hospitals: Rex, WakeMed, Duke Children’s and UNC North Carolina Children’s Hospital. The day was capped by the team attending the Season Ticket Holder Party to sign autographs for all season ticket holders in attendance.
Click here for a photo gallery of the hospital visits
Departing the RecZone for the local hospitals is always fun to watch as there is typically one or two Canes staff members who are trying to lead a chain of cars to the respective hospitals.
In a rare feat yesterday, fathers Matt Cullen, Eric Staal, Scott Walker and Ray Whitney visited Rex Hospital. All four mentioned how tough it is to see kids who are in the hospital but how great it is to see a child smile while they are experiencing such a tough time.
The group visited the Carolina Hurricanes playroom at Rex as well as a few individual rooms on the pediatric wing. For these four, it was their first time seeing the new Carolina Hurricanes playroom. All four were impressed, and both Eric and Ray were happy to see they were represented in photos around the room (Ray even remembered which goal he was celebrating and was upset that we cut one sulking opposing player out of the photo).
All four guys were great with the kids and did an exceptional job with one little girl who was very shy. Scott Walker in particular helped break the ice by showing that he could remove his front four teeth. Though this might frighten some kids, Scott could tell that his teeth trick would be an easy way to get this little lady to smile.
The group also made a trip to Rex’s neonatal intensive care unit. Thankfully, this unit was not a capacity as it has been in the past. The nurses’ stress the effort they go through in order to try to have all kids at home for Christmas.
Rod Brind’Amour, Sergei Samsonov and Cam Ward visited WakeMed hospital in Raleigh. They made stops in individual rooms, one stop in which a little boy pleaded for the player’s to stop as it would “make his life”. One girl at WakeMed had a very tough morning and the nurses congratulated the players for making her smile.Brandon Sutter, Manny Legace, Brett Carson and Jay Harrison visited Duke Children’s hospital. They visited nearly 30 children at Duke, one of which played a fun game of hide-and-seek under his covers with the players.
Tom Kostopoulos joined the Finnish contingent of Tuomo Ruutu, Jussi Jokinen and Joni Pitkanen on a trip to The North Carolina Children’s Hospital at UNC. They met with nearly 20 kids, including a young boy whose parents and nurses were beginning to worry as he had spoken only a few words over the past three days. The Canes players were apparently the perfect medicine as they said the little guy couldn’t stop talking while the Canes players visited his room.
I share these brief stories as I sometimes feel bad that I get to witness these great moments. Each community trip helps further my belief that hockey has the best players. Despite only being home for a short time following a seven-day December road trip, every player was excited to make a visit to the hospital.
Also, a special thanks to all non-community relations staff personnel who helped make this time a little less chaotic. In addition to our community relations staff and interns, we had a veteran-laden cast that included Mike Sundheim, Kyle Hanlin, PJ Avetta, Paul Branecky and Eric Bridenstine.
Tuesday at 4 p.m., four Canes players will be paired with four local community children to help complete their wish list in a shopping event at Target of North Hills. This is the third consecutive year we have done the shopping event and this year features four players who are all making their shopping debut. I spoke with Erik Cole and Stephane Yelle last night and both were very excited about the trip. They will accompany Aaron Ward and Chad LaRose on what will certainly be another memorable visit.