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Sens bring cheer to CHEO

Team's annual Christmas visit gives reason for smiles all around

Wednesday, 12.17.2008 / 7:22 PM ET / Features
By Rob Brodie  -
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Sens bring cheer to CHEO
The smiles, they couldn't have been bigger or brighter.

And the warmth they exchanged ... what more could any of them ask for on a chilly winter's day? It's the stuff of Christmas magic, this annual trek that is anything but a chore for a merry band of Ottawa Senators players who helped brighten this Wednesday for a roomful of patients at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

The sting of a 4-1 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers the night before was quickly erased by each jolly grin or pleasant word that greeted the Senators on an occasion that has become a yearly treat for them all.

"It's fun for us to come here," said centre Mike Fisher. "It's not always easy, seeing the kids and what they're going through. But all the kids are upbeat, happy and it's Christmas time.

"It's really exciting for us and we usually get a lot more out of it than we put into it."

One by one, the Senators were introduced to a hearty round of cheers, each of the players bearing a gift for a child. They listened with broad grins as the patients, their families and CHEO staff sang a Sens-themed Christmas song they'd composed, accompanied by the fine guitar talents of Dylan Duquette.

"You make us feel very welcome," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson.

Then it was the turn of Brian Lee, Ilya Zubov and Jesse Winchester to extend a rookie tradition with a rendition of that old holiday favourite, Jingle Bells.

"I thought they did a great job," said a grinning Nick Foligno, who had to fly solo in that area a year ago.

That about summed up the feelings of the patients, all of whom waited excitedly to meet their hockey heroes.

"For so many of the kids here who might not even by home for Christmas, it's just great for them," said Duquette, 16, of Mattawa, clad in a red Dany Heatley jersey. "It's just something that doesn't happen too often. Being in here, you don't think it will happen. I think it's great. It tripped me right out when they told me they were coming by."

Katia Cleroux was thrilled to meet three of her favourite Senators: Fisher, Antoine Vermette and Chris Neil.

"It's really awesome," said Cleroux, 15. "It's giving hope to some kids and it's a dream come true for others.

"To see these people you think you might never meet and to actually meet them ... it's a dream come true."

Clearly, it's a day that warms the hearts of these hockey Santas, too.

"It lightens the whole year up (for us)," said Neil. "They put smiles on our faces and that's how special these kids are in here. It's amazing."

And it sheds a different light on a tough loss or two.

"You gain perspective on everything," said Alfredsson. "What we do affects a lot of people but it's not life and death. Some people here have been here a long time and they face a lot of difficulties. It puts life in perspective and that's good for everybody to go through once in awhile."

Added Foligno: "You realize there are more important things in life than just winning and losing. These people are battling for their lives and that's something not a lot of people have to deal with and you feel fortunate when you don't have to.

"It's nice to be here and make them smile. It's always fun coming here, for sure."

Fisher said the annual visit  "definitely cheers us up. We've been going through a tough stretch in the last little while and this really puts things into perspective. It's always fun coming here and seeing them."




1 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
2 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
3 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
4 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
5 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
6 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
7 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
8 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54


E. Karlsson 82 21 45 7 66
M. Stone 80 26 38 21 64
K. Turris 82 24 40 5 64
B. Ryan 78 18 36 5 54
M. Hoffman 79 27 21 16 48
M. Zibanejad 80 20 26 0 46
C. MacArthur 62 16 20 -6 36
M. Michalek 66 13 21 3 34
D. Legwand 80 9 18 1 27
A. Chiasson 76 11 15 -5 26
C. Anderson 14 13 8 .923 2.49
R. Lehner 9 12 3 .905 3.02