March 14, 2013
By Christopher Hurley
Tuukka Rask was recently rushed to the hospital, but relax Bruins fans. It was purely a social call.
Fresh off a morning practice following an extensive five-game, two-week road trip, which included stops in Buffalo, Winnipeg, Florida and Long Island, Rask, along with defenseman Aaron Johnson, took time out to visit Lawrence Memorial Hospital Feb. 27. The pair had a guided tour, meeting several members of the staff as well as visiting a number of patients.
“It’s really important to give back to the community, this is one of the best ways to do that,” said Rask. “Its always fun for us as well as the fans.”
“Anytime you can put smiles on people’s faces and support the people that work here at the hospital, its nice,” said Johnson.
A little over a week later, Bruins winger Lane MacDermid and goaltender Anton Khudobin took a similar shift, dropping by the Melrose-Wakefield Hospital in Melrose, March 8.
“It’s always nice to go to hospitals and lift some spirits,” said MacDermid. “There were a lot of fans and it was a good turnout.”
Hallmark Health, a major league provider of quality and advanced community healthcare, joined forces with the hockey stars three years ago as the official Healthcare Partner of the Boston Bruins.
The partnership is a natural fit for both Hallmark Health and the team. The local healthcare provider’s orthopedic surgeons and premier Bone and Joint Program provide advanced care, treating orthopedic injuries and disease in people of all ages, including those suffering from sports-related injuries.
During their visit, Rask and Johnson met with several elderly patients.
“It was a little different,” admitted Rask. “I’m use to seeing kids, but today was older people, which was nice. I don’t think they get to see us so often in person, so it was a good treat. It’s part of our job and we love doing it. I can’t complain.”
MacDermid and Khudobin visited several floors at Melrose-Wakefield meeting patients who had orthopedic surgeries, to newborn babies. Both tours concluded with an autograph session.
“Its always fun to make people happy,” MacDermid said. “Hospitals aren’t always the best place to be, unless you’re having a baby, but its always nice seeing people there. It’s part of the job, but you also like to do it. You like to be a part of the community and help those places out. I like to do it whenever I can.”
Rask is entering his sixth season with the Bruins, after coming over in a June 2006 trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Andrew Raycroft. The 6-foot-2, 171-pound goaltender entered the week owining a 13-2-3 records, with a 1.96 goal against average.
The Finnish netminder is no stranger to making big saves. He enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2009-10 leading the NHL with a 1.97 goals against average and .931 save percentage. He then teamed up with Tim Thomas, forging an impressive tandem that helped lead Boston to its first Stanley Cup Championship in 39 years in 2011.
Khudobin has proven to be a reliable back-up for Rask, posting a 4-1 record in five games this season.
A rookie forward, MacDermid is the son of former Hartford Whaler Paul MacDermid. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound winger has a penchant for physical play, which should make him a fan favorite in the years to come.
A nine-year NHL veteran, Johnson is entering his first year with the Bruins. The 6-foot-1, 204-pound blueliner has liked what he has seen from his new hockey home, and has enjoyed interacting with the fans in these type of settings.
“Anytime you mention the Bruins name you always get a smile,” Johnson said. “A lot of people know what happened in the last game and want to talk hockey. We have a lot of support around here and its nice to be able to give back to them.”
Hallmark Health Executive Vice President Charles Whipple saw the impact the players visits had on the patients first hand.
“I saw their faces light up,” Whipple said “One woman said to me she had chest pains, and has even more now after meeting Aaron Johnson and Tuukka Rask, but we’re taking great care of her in our community hospitals.”
“For them to take a time out of their day after practice to come out and see our patients means the world.”
According to Whipple, the partnership is a winning combination.
“Its two real cornerstones of the Boston Community,” Whipple said. “Our local community hospitals and the great Bruins brand. We have very loyal patients and obviously the Bruins have a great loyal fanbase here. We’re able to put the two of those together; it’s a great combination.”
As he lined up for the autograph session, Melrose fourth grader Nicholas Ciccorella came prepared bringing in his goalie stick to get signed. But the squirt netminder never imagined that he’d run into Rask.
“I was actually pretty shocked,” said Ciccorella, 9, a member of the Melrose Youth Hockey Squirts. “I didn’t think Tuukka was going to be here. I thought it was going to be some of the younger players. I had no idea. I’m shocked, but I’m pretty happy.”
“That was pure luck,” said Jeanine Jump, Nicholas’s mother, noting that the family watched the team practice in Wilmington earlier in the day. “He had no idea he was going to be here.”
Both the mother and her son have a strong feeling about this year’s team.
“I think they’ll do good,” Ciccorella said.
His mom concurred
“Playoffs definitely, and hopefully more,” she said.