(PHOTO GALLERY: Children's Hospital Visit)
Although they may play hockey with surgical precision on the ice, the Pittsburgh Penguins certainly aren’t doctors.
However, they prescribed plenty of smiles Wednesday in their annual visit to Pittsburgh’s Children’s Hospital.
“It’s a lot of fun for us, and I know it was fun for them. It’s great for us to get the opportunity to come out here and bring some smiles to their faces and help them enjoy their time here a little more,” Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. “It’s a nice feeling for us. They are faced with some adversity here. If we can come and get their minds off that for a little bit, we’re doing our part here. It’s nice for us and we enjoy doing it. Hopefully, we can brighten up their day a bit.”
The Penguins accomplished that feat repeatedly as the team was split up into several groups and visited children room-by-room on several floors of the hospital.
“It’s really special, I think, for all the guys. These kids are in here battling so hard,” Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney said. “The least we can do is hopefully brighten up their day and give them something to smile about.”
The players did more than just spend time with patients. They handed out Penguins team calendars, yearbooks and youth practice shirts to the patients and their families. And, the Penguins posed for pictures and signed autographs.
“It leaves a good feeling in your heart. I love coming here and talking to kids and just hanging out with them,” Penguins rookie Jordan Staal said. “It’s really special; it’s a big deal for them and it feels really good to see them smile. It’s really amazing to see those kids’ faces light up and I am just glad to be here.”
The children were thrilled to spend time with NHL players.
“It’s great to see. The fact that we could bring this much joy to a bunch of kids around the holidays is humbling,” Whitney said. “It not only makes them feel good, but it makes us feel good to know that we’re hopefully helping. We’re wishing every child the best of luck and we know they are all going to fight hard. It’s great to come in here; I wish we could do it more.”
The afternoon visit was rewarding to the patients, but the Penguins won’t soon forget it, either.
“It’s something we enjoy. People may not believe that, but it’s true,” Whitney said. “We had practice this morning and we’re lucky enough to be healthy right now and skating and playing hockey for a living. You don’t really realize your blessings until you get in here. We see these kids and they won’t stop fighting and it just kind of gives us something to work toward. They give us a reason to play hockey. They love watching us, so why not try to play well for these guys. It’s a lot of fun.”