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Tree house to serve as All-Star legacy in Columbus

by Corey Masisak / NHL.com

COLUMBUS -- The Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio is the largest in the world, with the ability to accommodate more than 130 families while their children are spending time in area hospitals.

It also now is the only one with a hockey-themed tree house.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, along with NHL All-Stars Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, Nick Foligno of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Jonathan Drouin of the Tampa Bay Lightning, were at the Ronald McDonald House on Friday to unveil the 2015 NHL All-Star Legacy Treehouse as part of the festivities for All-Star Weekend.

"I think this is what you enjoy the most," Foligno said. "Obviously you play and you get to be in the spotlight, but these are the reasons that you want to give back and use that spotlight back for good," Foligno said. "To see those kids' faces when they walked into the tree house … it was so gratifying. What they're going through, to be able to help them … for even 10 minutes is so gratifying. It is outstanding to see what they've done here."

The three players and Commissioner Bettman took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the tree house, which is part of a three-story stairwell in the facility, and then enjoyed some time playing with the kids who are staying at the house.

"I'll never look at a stairwell the same after seeing this one," Bergeron said. "All of the other ones will seem pretty boring. It is definitely great to see right from the get-go to see kids having fun. It is always a lot of fun to have a chance to be here and give back to the community. I'm just happy to be here and to see the kids' reactions to the unveiling."

The first level has a "frozen pond" with the working scoreboard. The next level up has a Blue Jackets locker room, complete with various pieces of equipment and a Plinko board like the one on the popular TV game show "The Price Is Right" and the one at Nationwide Arena.

The top level has a tunnel from a two-minute time-out box that resembles a penalty box, to an ice resurfacer on the other side of the stairwell.

"It is nothing short of phenomenal," Commissioner Bettman said. "The creativity that has gone into creating a treehouse in this facility in a stairwell was absolutely beyond my comprehension until I saw it myself."

Along with contributions from the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation, the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Columbus Foundation, Marketing Activations Group and U.S. League partner McDonald's, the NHL invested $190,000 into the project as a way to have an impact on these children's lives long after the stars of the NHL are done playing Sunday at Nationwide Arena.

"It's always been a priority for the McConnell family that this team be a part of the community, give back to the community, make a difference in the lives of the people that live in this community,” Bettman said of the family that owns the Blue Jackets. "We couldn't be more proud of what the Blue Jackets have established here in Columbus."

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