Melrose Free Press

Dec. 5, 2013

By Christopher Hurley

Under normal circumstances hockey players want to avoid making a trip to the hospital. But Boston Bruins hockey players Matt Bartkowski and Reilly Smith made a special exception, Monday afternoon.

The two Bruins headed to Melrose-Wakefield Hospital Dec.2, for a special visit of the Maternal-Newborn Service Unit. The pair met with more than a half dozen newborn babies and their parents, presenting them with black and gold onesies and stockings.
It was a refreshing change of pace for the hockey heroes.
“It was fun going to the maternity ward and seeing the newborn babies,” said Smith.

“They’re so little. It’s crazy. It’s great coming to a place like this, seeing fans and it’s amazing how many sports fans and Boston Bruins fans there are in the city. It’s good to be able to connect with people.”

Bartkowski agreed.

“This was enjoyable,” said Bartkowski.  “Having a newborn, I’m sure it’s tough to get to a game, even within that first year, so it’s good to be able to come meet people and help them smile.”

In addition to meeting the next wave of Bruins fans, the pair also got to shadow a transport worker, picking up a patient and bringing them to their room. They also met several members of the staff and other patients in different wards along their one-hour trek.

For the Bruins, making these kinds of trips has almost become almost second nature.

“I like doing hospital visits, meeting sick people and patients with cancer that haven’t been given a fair shake in life,” said Bartkowski. “It’s good to be able to help them out. Today was pretty cool. We brought [the babies] some gifts; hopefully, they can wear the onesies and grow up Bruins fans.”

For the new parents, meeting the Bruins was a pleasant surprise.

“I love that these guys came by,” said Chris Valle, of Woburn, whose wife Kerry gave birth to son, Ryder, three days earlier. “I think its awesome and the fact that [Ryder] slept through it, he’s going to be kicking himself when he gets older. But they’re definitely making some new fans.”
Other new dads agreed.
“This is awesome,” said Hai Tran, of Saugus, whose wife gave birth to son Eli, at 3:30 a.m. that morning. “It’s a lifetime opportunity especially for a newborn. We’re very excited and proud that we had a chance to take a picture with these hockey superstars.”
“This is great,” said Fajoba Banji, of Melrose, while holding his daughter, Tammy. “I wish she was awake so she could see them, but it’s a great treat for her. Who knows, she might become a hockey player. You never know.”

Hallmark Health, a major league provider of quality and advanced community healthcare, joined forces with the hockey stars in 2010, 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.

A 6-foot, 185-pound right wing, Smith, 22, was one of the team’s newest acquisitions during the off-season, coming to Boston as part of the Tyler Seguin/Loui Ericksson trade. He has since earned his keep on the Bruins checking line, currently ranking third on the team in scoring with five goals 12 assists and 17 points in 27 games.

A 6-foot-1, 191-pound defenseman, Bartkowski, 25, is entering his fourth year with the Bruins organization. The slick-skating defenseman has picked up six assists in 13 games this season, while continuing to push for more playing time on a highly talented, but crowded Bruins blueline.

Monday’s visit was the latest chapter in a Bruins partnership with Hallmark Health.

“It’s tremendous to have the Bruins come in,” said Alan MacDonald, vice president of business strategy and external affairs at Hallmark. “It’s so cheery to have newborns, in this case, get their pictures taken with the Bruins and get the Bruins booties. The parents love it.

“It’s been a great partnership with the Bruins,” MacDonald added. “So much of what we do here is about the health and the orthopedics, and the Bruins have been a great example of just what good health and good conditioning mean to the patients that we have. They are awful good to spend some time here.”

For these Bruins, it’s the least they can do.

Both players understand giving back to the community is an integral part of being a professional athlete in Boston.

“It’s huge,” said Smith. “Without our fans and the community, we wouldn’t have a job, so its great giving back and showing them support, because they support us so much.

Everyone enjoys these kinds of events because when you see the smiles of the people and how much they light up; it gives you a good feeling about yourself.

“When we can give back to the community, I think it’s good for the city and good for the team,” he added. “It was just a fun day.”

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