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Canadian players bring smiles to children in hospital

Canadian players bring smiles to children in hospital

It was young Victor Boissy’s reaction alone that made the Canadiens continue its traditional tour of Montreal children’s hospitals year after year.

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QMI Photography Agency, Mario Beauregard

The bedridden boy’s face lit up, as he slept and hugged his Canadian bulldog tightly, when he saw Samuel Montembault, Jake Allen, Michael Pizzetta and Gustav Lindstrom enter his room in the intensive care ward at St. Justine Hospital.

“It’s his first smile of the day,” said his mother, Veronique Arvezais.

“He had surgery on the base of his neck yesterday. He’s having moments of pain, so he’s on morphine,” she said.

In another corner of the hospital, Sophia Samali was impatiently waiting for Nick Suzuki’s visit. Notebook in hand, she couldn’t wait to get her autograph and take her picture with her favorite player.

“When I learned that the Canadian team players were going to visit hospitals, I asked to be able to meet them,” said Aziz, the shy girl’s father. She loves them very much.

“I watch almost every game with my father on TV. I am excited and happy that I was able to see them in person,” said Sofia with stars in her eyes.

Return the favor after receiving

QMI Photography Agency, Mario Beauregard

With a smile on the faces of the children, and happiness on the faces of their parents, the men of Martin St. Louis accomplished their mission for the day.

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“Earlier, we visited a young goalkeeper from Mirabel. He was so happy to see us that he cried,” said Samuel Montembault.

“These are not always easy times, but we have to be strong for it,” he added. “I am happy to allow them to forget, for a moment of the day, the slightly more difficult situation they are going through.”

Montembault is well placed to know the reality of young patients at Saint Justine Hospital as one of his own family members has already found himself in this situation.

“Visiting hospitals means a lot to me. I have a cousin who went through this several years ago. He met the Canadian players. It helped him a lot,” said the Becancour goalkeeper.

It is not only their presence that brings happiness to children. Victory is also a balm in this somewhat bleakest period.

“There are a lot of people who have small TVs in their rooms. They congratulated us on our win yesterday. This also brings a smile to their faces. It helps them have a good time,” Montembault said.


Upon his arrival to the team in the final stretch of last season, Rafael Harvey Benard was on his first hospital visit. The kind of outing that underscores the importance of the Habs within the community.

“By doing activities like this, you get a better understanding of what Canadians represent to the population,” he said. But we see it more today. Parents tell us it makes a difference for their children.

So much so that some patients were hoping to extend their stay by a few hours so as not to miss this visit.

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Hubert was supposed to be released from the hospital at 1 p.m. “Finally, with all the delays this morning, we can still be here to see the Canadian players,” Daniel Borges said.

We don’t know who was happier, dad Daniel or little Hubert, 19 months old, but everyone left with a light heart.

An unforgettable visit for the players

Canadian players, including Nick Suzuki and Jake Allen upon their arrival at CHU Sainte-Justine.

QMI Photography Agency, Mario Beauregard

It is nothing new for the Skane family to visit sick children as the holiday season approaches. It is a tradition founded by Jean Beliveau in the early 1960s.

If these visits have done well for thousands of kids over the decades, they are bringing Canadian players back to the grassroots level. One where the results we expect have nothing to do with victory or defeat.

“They’re fighting for real issues in life. We’re doing the job we love and our bad days aren’t like a bad day for a sick kid,” Brendan Gallagher said.

“Every year, I visit the hospital,” continued the player with the most seniority in the Canadian locker room. He always puts things into perspective. We always have a short-term memory as hockey players and stay in our bubble. “But when you visit the children in the hospital, you no longer think about hockey,” he added.

“Moreover, I often think about the little boys or girls we meet during this day.”

“The Canadian is everything, he is part of us,” sang Michel Comeau and Thierry Dubé in the 1980s. And every year, during their visits to St. Justine Hospital, Shriners Hospital for Children and Montreal Children’s Hospital, the Habs players could see him.

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“We don’t always understand the impact we have on residents. This makes us realize that,” said Nick Suzuki. “Moreover, I always look forward to coming here. This is a really special activity. I love meeting the kids and their families. The kids always seem to enjoy seeing us.”

Responsibilities with privilege

Long before he had the career that opened the doors to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Martin St. Louis grew up in Laval, idolizing players like Mats Naslund. Over the years, he has witnessed, through numerous reports on the subject, the impact of these visits.

An activity that, in his eyes, is part of the responsibilities that come with the privilege of wearing the blue, white and red jacket.

“As a professional athlete, especially in Montreal, it is an opportunity, but above all a duty. It is our duty to give time to people who are in a difficult situation. If we can lift their morale, that is our duty.”

A duty that everyone once again performed well.