BOSTON, MA - In the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, days can be tough.
But for the young patients, they'll mark Tuesday, October 8, as special.
A visit from two gentlemen decked in Black & Gold, with spoked-B's on their chests did the honors of helping make that happen.
A span of four days off from games for the Bruins is rare; in fact, it didn't exist last season. So, with the B's in the midst of a layoff, it gave Shawn Thornton and Tuukka Rask the chance to stop by the Boston-based hospital for a visit.
The pair went from room to room, spending time with the patients who, not surprisingly, were all huge fans of No. 22 and No. 40.
"It’s great. We don’t have an opportunity to do this too often because of our schedule, so whenever that window opens, we like to go out there," said Rask. "And these hospital visits are I think the most important thing to do."
"It’s really fun for us to give back to the community and whenever there’s kids involved, it’s the greatest thing."
It's no secret that part of "being a Bruin" is being part of the community. For Rask and Thornton, it's been that way since they both came onto the Boston scene in 2007-08.
They do it willingly and often without attention (which is they way they'd rather have it), but the hope would be that if other kids maybe were to watch a video from this visit or see other young patients powering their way through, it may help in a small way.
"It’s not about us at all," said Thornton. "We do this, it’s an hour, hour and a half out of our day, it’s nothing."
"It’s heartbreaking seeing some of those kids up there. It’s tough to swallow and it’s not easy to do and it’s probably not for everybody, but I really enjoy it and I'm hoping that they got a kick out of me and Tuukka being here."
Did they ever.
And it's usually in the simplest of ways.
Tuukka hit the air hockey table as soon as he entered the first room, finding a willing competitor who quickly occupied his time. He brought out No. 40's competitiveness. The netminder won 5-3.
He thought he maybe should have let up a little bit, but I saw the young man later during the visit; he was still beaming (scoring three goals on Rask can do that!)
"Yeah, I’m a competitive guy," Tuukka smiled. "And so was my partner there, so it’s something a little fun, just playing around with the kids is always good."
"It’s only a couple minutes per patient so you kind of hope that you can stay longer with some patients or some rooms," said Rask. "At least we see a lot of kids which is great. Today we saw a girl who was going home today so it was great, too. She's still smiling."
That young girl was the wise beyond her years Georgia, who had the pleasure of being wished well by Tuukka and Shawn before she left to head home.
Another young girl, Maggie, knows her Bruins well. Her favorite wears a No. 22 on his jersey.
"Andy Ference actually is who introduced me to her and told me at that time that I was her favorite player so I had signed a stick for her, she had come to a game and I met her after one of the games," said Thornton. "That’s what makes it worth it coming here."
Maggie has the spirit of a Bruin, or maybe, the B's have her spirit. She's a battler, with a heart of gold.
"We say it every time we’re here but it does put things in perspective too. We get to play a game and we’re very fortunate to be where we are and life’s pretty great. So being able to give back to them a little bit, it makes us feel good, too."
We can all learn a few things from Maggie, and Georgia, and young fighters like Tariq, who may be more famous than Mr. Thornton.
"Tariq, he’s a big YouTube sensation, I’m told," smiled Thornton. "We gave him our autograph and he’s like, 'Hey you want mine or what?' I’m like, 'Yeah of course.' It’s in my back pocket, I have to check him out on YouTube, I'm told; he has a couple of music videos I think."
Maybe some Tariq magic will bring his Merlot Line a goal?
"I hope so. I hope so, maybe the next goal will go in after this."
The visit will keep the kids smiling for days, as they look at all of the Black & Gold memorabilia, jerseys and spoked-B's lining the walls and the rooms of the wing of the hospital founded by the Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care.
With his foundation, the B's President has helped to open The Neely House, the Neely Center for Clinical Cancer Research, The Neely Cell Therapy and Collection Center, The Neely Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Unity and The Neely Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic, all with Tufts Medical Center.
While the day marked a memory for the patients, it also marked a milestone for Thornton, as he offered his first check on behalf of the Shawn Thornton Foundation to Tufts Medical Center.
It was fitting that the staff rested the check in an area where you entered the Neely clinic. One former Bruin's goodwill passed on to another.
"On the personal level, when you run a foundation, I guess that’s the first check we’ve got to give," said Thornton, who helped the raise the funds mostly through his Cuts for a Cause event every spring.
"We were able to make a small donation today and hopefully many more to come."
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