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Players Spend Time With Youngsters

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

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When you are a guy in a blue Leafs jersey visiting the patients at Sick Kids Hospital, your job is easy enough.

Talk to the kids, draw them out, sign their jerseys and act as if you are nothing special because in this room you are not.

The Leafs convened their annual hospital visit Monday and while the players seemed ten-feet tall to the sick and youngsters, the guys in the sweaters are carrying around something the kids can’t see.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere calmly approached the intimidating collection of ill children on a couch.  “Hi, my name is J.S.” he said and in a moment he was distributing gift bags.

Giguere, of course, knows a whole lot about sick children. During the Ducks run to the Stanley Cup in 2007 season, Giguere’s son Maxim was diagnosed with a serious eye condition and had to be extensively hospitalized.

“This is the last place these kids and their parents want to be,” said Giguere who should know. “But what you learn is that the kids are very resilient. It’s probably easier for them than the parents.”

Carl Gunnarsson was making his second visit to the hospital. He too spent time in a hospital, this one in Sweden watching his niece, born three months premature, struggle then eventually thrive.

“When you see something happen to people in your own life, it really hits home” he said.

In another section of the room, Dion Phaneuf is playing a spirited game of air hockey with a 14-year-old from Keswick named Liam Jefferson.

“I played hockey for a couple of years,” Liam said. “I think it’s every kid’s dream to play hockey.”

The only hockey Liam plays these days is the air hockey variety, but Liam turns aside Phaneuf routinely. At game’s end its 5-4 for the Leafs captain who challenged Liam at every turn.

“They’re in here fighting and battling,” said Phaneuf who would know a little on the subject. “There in a lot bigger fight than a hockey game.”
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