It’s a day that truly does make a difference.
In the lives of wide-eyed children, some of whom aren’t going through the easiest of times in what has become their home away from home, and in the perspective of their biggest hockey heroes, who savour every moment of their annual pre-Christmas visit to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.
“It’s easy to look at the negatives when you’re an adult,” Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
said as he took a break from a festive Monday afternoon at CHEO, surrounded by dozens of smiling young children. “But when you see kids in a tough situation and the way they handle themselves, the way they smile and look at the positives … that’s the biggest thing we can take out of it.
“Seeing we can make a difference for a day is really nice.”
Clearly, the Senators surely do. Just ask 14-year-old Josée Riel, who couldn’t stop staring at the photos she had taken with Mike Fisher, her favourite Senator.
“This is the best picture ever,” she said with excitement in her voice. “I really like the whole team and I think they’re so great, but he’s just my favourite of all time.”
From the moment the team was introduced one-by-one, a joyful feeling was oh so obvious in the air. The youngsters cheered as rookie Nick Foligno
led the assembled gathering in a rendition of Jingle Bells, then serenaded the players with a special Christmas song they’d composed.
“To hear the kids all sing the song they made up is pretty special,” said Senators centre Jason Spezza
. “It’s just a fun day all around for us.
“We know there’s some struggles going on here, but we just try to make their day as good as possible and try to put smiles on their faces.”
Youngsters like Kanz Hussain return the favour with the way they greet the players.
“It’s a very nice honour to meet everyone,” said Hussain, 12. “It gives us something to smile about.
“One of my favourite players is Daniel Alfredsson
. He was very nice to me. He seemed to remember me (from last year).”
Added Riel: “It’s really good for all the patients. It gives us confidence and I think it helps us to recover from what we’re experiencing. Everybody just looks so happy.”
Senators winger Dany Heatley caught the spirit of the moment, too.
“They’re in the hospital every day,” he said. “I think they just want to be happy for a day and not think about their illness or the situation they’re in.
“Every kid you meet, you see the smile on their face … it’s a great, great feeling that you can do that for someone.” Check out video and photos of all the smiling faces!