02/26/2015 5:03 PM
Special Correspondent: Joe Narsa
Some of hockey’s best moments happen miles from the arena.
In these cases, there are usually no cameras, microphones or media, and had it not been for a chance encounter with Community Relations Coordinator Matthew Grant of the Brampton Beast as I was leaving the Powerade Centre, this instance would have been no different.
Grant was leaving for the Brampton Civic Hospital with some of the Beast’s biggest stars, and by tagging along I was given an unexpected front row seat to the heart-warming spectacle of watching players brighten the faces, and get more than a few laughs, from the children and their families staying in the BCH Paediatric Ward.
“Our organization has always taken pride in giving back to the community whenever the opportunity presents itself,” said Grant on the trip to the hospital. “We have a great group of players and staff that are willing to sacrifice the very little free time they have in order to make a difference in the lives of others. While we do a great job of attending community events, the visits to the paediatric ward are one of my favourites, and seeing the happiness on the children's faces when they talk to the players only reinforces how important this is."
Team captain and last year’s CHL Man of the Year Cal Wild took the lead handing out jerseys and mini sticks alongside goaltender Trevor Cann, while former ECHL scoring champion Justin Donati and standout rookie Mathew Maione took turns signing posters and trading conversations covering a everything from sports and hockey to naming different Pokémon (for the record, Maione knows the most).
The pace was slow and deliberate as each player made an effort to connect with the kids as they moved from room to room, careful not to leave without giving the families their well wishes and something to remember them by. On a cold day in Brampton, the warmth from each visit was felt in earnest.
“Being able to provide a little bit of cheer in a little one’s life, just seeing their reaction and seeing that smile is awesome,” said Wild on the way home. “It’s tough to describe. Just the small act of being there and saying hello, it goes a long way.”
The Beast continue to reach out to institutions, groups and charities in the Peel Region as they strive to establish deep roots in the community while attending upwards of seven events a week, ranging from hospital visits and school trips to skating with local minor hockey teams.
“Seeing how happy the kids are, and the pure excitement on their faces, you know they appreciate it,” said Cann, a former second-round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche and veteran in community appearances.
Since the inception of the Beast franchise in 2013, both the team’s management and its players have embraced the responsibility of becoming role models and leaders in the community. The team is well known at the hospital, as evidenced by the familiarity between players and hospital staff, whose enthusiasm at having the Beast players in the ward was equally palpable.