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Annual hospital visits bring smiles to patients and players alike

by Andrea Goss / Edmonton Oilers

Peyton (right) poses with Taylor Hall.
EDMONTON - Accessories are often a staple for any young girl, but Peyton never imaged she would be sporting multiple casts and a wheelchair along with her every day attire. The 10-year-old Grande Prairie native has spent the last seven weeks in Edmonton after a skiing accident left her with limited mobility. After a month spent at the Stollery Children's Hospital, she was moved to the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital where Doctors say her recovery is going very well.

"I broke all my ribs on my right side, my shoulder, my neck and my femur," said Peyton. "Recovery has been going good; we've been going step by step."

While her daily routine often consists of physiotherapy and catching up on schoolwork, Friday brought a nice change and surprise for the patients at the Glenrose, as members of the Edmonton Oilers stopped by for a visit. Adding her pink Oilers jersey to her ensemble for the day, Peyton lined up with fellow hospital goers to meet Oilers defencemen Mark Fistric and Ryan Whitney and Oilers forward Taylor Hall.

"The Oilers are here and we're getting autographs and pictures taken," said Peyton. "It's exciting because you get to meet them all in person."

"I'll probably take my autographs back to show my friends. So far I've got Hall and Fistric," she said as she showed off the inked sleeve of her jersey.

For the players, hospital visits have become an annual tradition that they look forward to every year.

"It's always fun to come here, it puts a smile on their faces and puts a smile on ours, too," said Hall.

"I've been here twice now and the kids are so cheerful and happy to see us and it really puts things into perspective. These kids are going through a lot every day and the struggles we have are pretty minimal compared to theirs."

As autographs and photos winded down, the action began to migrate to the games room where Whitney was challenged to Wii baseball, tennis and boxing by several young Glenrose patients. While the Oilers vet may be sitting with five points in his last five games, his Wii score didn't stand a chance next to the pros, landing him with a 0-3 record.

"He was boxing against a little kid and the kid beat him, it was fun to watch," chuckled Hall. "You can see the kid was pretty proud to have beat him and have fun with him."

Ending the afternoon visit on a high note, Fistric, Whitney and Hall were persuaded to showcase their off-ice skills in a Just Dance dance-off. The threesome fist pumped, shimmied and shook to the delight of the crowd, who cheered and laughed away their worries.

"It was great to participate with the kids and show that we're people too," said Hall. "I don't think my dance moves are as good as they should be but it's just fun to participate with them."

Meanwhile, in the rest of the city and surrounding areas, the remainder of the Oilers roster was split between the Stollery Children's Hospital, Cross Cancer Institute, Grey Nuns Hospital, Misericordia Community Hospital, Sturgeon Community Hospital, Royal Alexandra Hospital and the University of Alberta Hospital.

An abundance of smiles, laughter and conversations filled the many hospital wings, wards and rooms as the players visited with everyone from the young to the young at heart. For most patients, it was a memory that won't soon be forgotten.

As for Peyton, she was very grateful to meet the players but hopes the next time around won't be in the hospital. Her sights are set on a release date of May 17 and she plans to switch up her accessories, trading in her neck brace for a swim cap as soon as her body will let her.

-- Andrea Rutt,
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