While Friday afternoon’s warm balmy weather brightened the mood in the Steel City, Penguin forward Mike Zigomanis brightened the day for a number of children inside the Oncology and Adolescent Wing at Children’s Hospital in Oakland.
Zigomanis - sporting a wiry playoff beard and light blue, No. 15 alternate jersey - went from room to room bearing tidings of playoff rally towels, Game 5 whiteout t-shirts and a friendly smile.
“The children are very excited to have Mike here and their families are thrilled,” said Nikki Mulholland, a Child Life Specialist at Children’s Hospital. “Mike couldn’t possibly realize what a difference this makes.”
The 28-year-old center first visited Children’s Hospital with the rest of the team around Christmas time. Since the December team visit, Zigomanis has made several more visits on his own.
“Anything we can do helps,” Zigomanis explained. “They are stuck in their rooms a lot of the time and they aren’t really allowed to roam around the hallway or go downstairs, so it’s tough on them.
“It’s nice that I can come out and be supportive.”
Zigomanis played 22 games with the Penguins this season before he was sidelined with a shoulder injury on Dec. 4. His injury was a common conversation point with the kids he visited. When one spunky girl showed off the four I.V. hookups on her arms, Zigomanis responded with a story of his own.
“They tell me their problems and I tell them about some of the situations that I’ve been through since I’ve had three or four surgeries,” Zigomanis said. “It’s fun to talk to them about it and we can joke around.”
The hospital food was another topic Zigomanis discussed with the patients.
“Stay away from the Salisbury steak – always,” warned Elizabeth, 19.
Elizabeth, like most of the patients Zigomais visited, had her picture taken with the Toronto native and she also had him autograph the t-shirt he brought.
“Any professional athlete who takes the time to visit should be valued,” Elizabeth said. “It’s nice that they spend their time with kids who might never get to see a Penguins game.”