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Senators bring smiles, relief to cancer fight

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Jennifer Spezza (centre), wife of Senators centre Jason Spezza, played host for two families dealing with the fight against cancer. Jennifer Tsekrekos (left) is a breast cancer survivor, while the husband of Jennifer Racicot (right) is currently battling the disease. In the front are two of Tsekrekos' children, Vincent and Alyssa, along with Sara Racicot.

For one morning, at least, their daily battles were pushed aside, replaced instead by smiles and laughter.

Senators wives Jennifer Spezza and Evgenia Kovalev played the welcoming hosts earlier today during a visit to a team practice at Scotiabank Place organized by the Sens Foundation. Their guests were a pair of families who have been affected by the pain caused by cancer.

The morning of hockey fun — which included the opportunity to meet and receive autographs from Senators players — offered a much-needed few hours of relief from the daily realities they must face.

"My husband is quite a hockey fan, so it's great," said Jennifer Racicot of Carlsbad Springs, whose husband, Gill, is battling a brain tumour and wasn't able to attend today's event. "He wanted the kids to come along, even though he couldn't come today. It's very generous of the Senators and the Foundation."

Her seven-year-old son, Ryan, was mesmerized by the goings on in front of him, including a chance to watch his favourite Senators player, Daniel Alfredsson.

"It's really good," he said with a smile.

Racicot's daughter Sara, 6, is a fan of a different Senators icon.

"Sara's a little young. She still likes the mascot," said Racicot. "Sparty's No. 1 with her, I think."

Also taking in the day were Jennifer Tsekrekos, a breast cancer survivor, and her three children Nicholas, 9; Alyssa, 6, and Vincent, 3.

"It's fun to be sitting so close and seeing all the players," said Tsekrekos. "We've been to games but never a practice. It's special for families who have suffered from cancer. It's certainly a nice community thing for (the Senators) to do."

The opportunity was also enjoyable for Spezza, the wife of Senators centre Jason Spezza, and Kovalev, who is married to forward Alex Kovalev.

"It's fun to interact with the kids and meet everyone," said Jennifer Spezza. "They have a great time getting up close and being able to see the players."

Added Eugenia Kovalev: "It's amazing. I think it's a good thing for them."

Saturday's home game against the Montreal Canadiens at Scotiabank Place will also be Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night, with Senators wives selling one-of-a-kind merchandise and memorabilia before the game to support the National Hockey League-wide campaign.

"I think it's fantastic," Jennifer Spezza said about the cause. "You'd be hard-pressed to find families that aren't affected by cancer. Everyone knows someone ... it's a great cause and anything you can do to help (is appreciated)."

Eugenia Kovalev agreed, saying "it's hugely important. It's great that the NHL does this. It creates a lot of publicity for the cause and it's good that they are able to do it in different cities and different countries. It's a very good thing."

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