Oilers pay visit to local hospitals
(left to right) Daniel Tjarnqvist, Jussi Markkanen, Dwayne Roloson and Patrick Thoresen pose with an Oilers fan that's only a couple of hours old in the Maternity Ward at Misericordia Hospital
Ryan Smyth poses with some youngsters at the Stollery Children's Hospital
A young fan proudly wears her Oilers pacifier
With several days off between games, the Edmonton Oilers took the opportunity to reach out to the community on Monday afternoon.
Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll, Ethan Moreau, Fernando Pisani and Ales Hemsky went to Stollery Childrens Hospital while a number of other players visited the Royal Alex, Grey Nuns and Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital.
Also, Dwayne Roloson, Patrick Thoresen, Jussi Markkanen and Daniel Tjarnqvist paid a visit to the Misericordia.
"Its a good break for us," said Markkanen. "We have a few days between games so we have time to do this. Its fun."
Misericordia Volunteer Services Coordinator Betty-Lynn Zukewich has played a role in helping to organize the teams annual visit to the hospital over the past eight to ten years.
"What I do generally is I will send e-mails to the patients care managers on the floors letting them know the date and time they will be there – not necessarily the players since we dont know at that point," she said.
"Ill ask if particular patients would appreciate a visit and then give them a cutoff date and time to get back to me and from there I arrange what floors we go to."
During the approximately two-hour visit, the players covered a number of different floors attempting to reach out to as many patients as possible.
"We do try to see all the patients we can," she said.
The players first stopped by the Childrens Health Centre where they were greeted eagerly by some young Oilers fans.
"Its great whenever you see the faces of the patients here, especially the kids," stated Markkanen. "Its unbelievable to be a part of this."
Following the Childrens Health Centre visit, the four players returned to the main hospital building and spent some time on the fourth floor for geriatrics and long-term care.
"It means a lot (when the Oilers visit)," said Zukewich. "Particularly the fourth floor like today. We find if theyre in here for any length of time their days are pretty long and boring. Quite often its difficult for them to even want to get out of bed and they dont really feel like theres anything to look forward to."
The Oilers visit coincided with some live entertainment as many of the floor residents made their way out to meet the players and listen to some music.
"An event like this is something very uplifting for them and they can take it back to their grandchildren and family members," she said. "I find most of the grannies know more about hockey than the men do. They keep up on it so theyre usually very excited."
The players then went down a floor to spend some time in the maternity ward. It was there that they met some of the youngest Oiler fans in the city. One boy in particular was only two hours old.
"Maternity is another nice area," remarked Zukewich. "You get the young dads and moms who can share the player cards and autographs with their kids down the road."
"Its a memorable start to their life. Hopefully theyll be future Oiler fans and have season tickets down the road, too!"
The players then spent some time at the psychiatric unit before saying their goodbyes.
"The Oilers are a huge thing in the city," noted Markkanen. "Pretty much all the people are behind the team so its great to get a chance to go somewhere and give back."