by Marc Ciampa
On Thursday the Edmonton Oilers took advantage of a day off on the schedule to take some time to reach out to the community.
The hospital visits were a chance for the Oilers to see people who may not be able to attend a game due to their condition. The team sent players to seven different hospitals and care facilities around the city.
"For me, it's one of the best parts about hockey," said Georges Laraque as he visited the pediatrics and maternity ward of Misericordia Hospital. Joining Laraque was Shawn Horcoff
and Oilers captain Jason Smith.
Todd Harvey brought along his son Dalton during the visit to Grey Nuns Hospital with Radek Dvorak and Ethan Moreau. The trio met with sick children, hoping to brighten their day and provide a little bit of encouragement.
"I've got three of my own and it sort of makes you sit back and gives you a reality check. I wanted (Dalton) to come and see this to realize how fortunate we are and other people are maybe not as fortunate," said Harvey as the players dropped by pediatrics and the coronary care unit.
At the other end of town Steve Staios, Brad Winchester, Raffi Torres and Cory Cross stopped by the Good Samaritan/Dr. Zetter Care Centre to pay a visit to some senior citizens.
"It's always been a big part of being an Oiler, being a part of community events," said Staios. "It's a big city with a small-town feel and we feel we can actually make a difference in a city like this by coming out."
The visit is one of the highlights of the winter season for the care centre says Charlotte Colliou, Recreation Therapist at Dr. Zetter Care Centre.
"The Oilers visiting here is a re-connection to the community that they don't necessarily get on a daily basis", Colliou stated. "Memories from the past get resurrected. They think about the Gretzky days when they were at home in their peak of watching hockey."
The connection felt between the patients and Oilers was evident as a number of resident hockey fans were decked out in Oilers gear. The players also visited a patient in her room, which was decorated in wall-to-wall Oiler memorabilia.
"Some of them are still avid hockey fans and still watch every game," she added.
Most of the visit involved a number of patients gathered in a common area where the players introduced themselves before signing hockey cards and greeting the onlookers.
"You come to a home like this and you see everybody's smiles light up and it really makes your day," mentioned Cross. "And it makes their day. That's what it's all about."
The patients aren't the only ones to benefit from the visits, as the players go away feeling better about themselves after reaching out to the community.
"You have to feel good about it, that you can make a slight difference in the way they feel," said Cross. "Hopefully they feel good about seeing us, too."
The Oilers also visited the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, Stollery Children's Hospital and Capital Care Dickensfield.
The visits were coordinated by the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation.