Melrose Free Press
Jan. 2, 2011
By Christopher Hurley
Three Boston Bruin hockey players rang in the New Year with a trip to the hospital.
But don’t fret Bruins fans, this was purely a social call.
Fresh off the ice following a morning practice session in Wilmington, Bruin players Johnny Boychuk, Benoit Pouliot and Zach Hamill, dropped by the Melrose-Wakefield Hospital in Melrose, Jan. 2. The trio had a guided tour of the hospital, meeting members of the staff, as well as visiting a number of patients in different wards, before signing autographs for roughly 300 fans.
For players like Boychuk, giving back to the community has become second nature.
“I’m having fun,” Boychuk said. “We’re visiting some people who need their spirits lifted. We’re more than happy to do it, especially when you see their smiles and how much it means to them, just to stop in for a couple minutes to talk to them.”
Hallmark Health, a major league provider of quality and advanced community healthcare, joined forces with the hockey stars last season, 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.
Monday’s two-hour visit began with a special trip to the maternity ward. The players got to meet several future Bruins, before greeting a half dozen patients on several other floors.
“It’s a nice thing to do and we enjoy it a lot,” Pouliot said. “Just seeing the kids and the older people, it’s always nice to talk to them. It makes their day and it makes our day.”
“It’s good,” Hamill said. “We always have time to do this kind of stuff, and we do as much as we can to give back.”
The players also got to talk some hockey with several elderly patients, many of whom still have vivid memories about the team’s glory years including the Stanley Cup Championship teams of 1970 and 1972.
They were happy to continue that championship legacy.
“Sometimes you don’t realize what kind of following you have, because you don’t get to meet every Bruins fan that watches the game, and notice how knowledgeable they are about the game,” Boychuk said. “But it’s nice to see that they know about the sport and every player too.”
“It’s (a tribute to) that era,” Pouliot said. “You always hear about them, especially Bobby Orr, John Bucyk, and all those guys. Their legends and everyone really followed them back in the day. It’s nice that they acknowledge them. They’re still watching us and I’m pretty sure they know who we are too.”
A five-year NHL veteran, Boychuk is entering his fourth season with the Bruins, after coming over in a trade with Colorado in 2008. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound defenseman was a key cog in the team’s Stanley Cup run last season, chipping in nine playoff points, including a goal in the decisive gave seven against the Montreal Canadiens in the Conference Quarterfinals.
One of the team’s big off-season free agent signings, Pouliot has proven to be a steady contributor as of late on the team’s checking line. The 6-foot-3, 199-pound winger is no stranger to playing in hockey hotbeds, with stints in Minnesota and Montreal.
He’s been enjoying his new hockey home.
“It’s been nice, I can’t complain at all. Everything’s been so positive. We’re winning a lot of games and obviously there’s some difference from up there [in Montreal] than down here [in Boston], but it’s much better here.”
One of the Bruins young guns, Hamill is starting to show the skills that made him a first round draft pick in 2007. The 5-foot-11, 173-pound winger is looking to increase his playing time with the parent club, after getting recalled from the AHL team in Providence last month.
He's done the job so far and plans to stick around.
“Obviously hockey is such a huge sport up here,” Hamill said. “The fans are very knowledgeable. It’s a big sports town and hockey’s a big part of it. I’m glad to be part of it also.”