Senators players brighten CHEO kids’ day

Senators players brighten CHEO kids’ day
Senators players at CHEO (Julie Oliver/Ottawa Citizen)

Marc Methot was feeling at home.

Just like the rest of the NHL players who call Ottawa home and visited the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Tuesday afternoon, Methot was smiling, joking and laughing as he stooped down to sign autographs for a group of assembled sick children, some of them in wheelchairs, others attached to medical equipment.

“I had never been to CHEO before,” said the Ottawa Senators defenceman, who could be paired with Erik Karlsson if the NHL ever plays again. “I’ve had the opportunity to do something similar to this in Columbus, but it’s pretty special to do it in your home city. It almost resonates a little bit more to me.

“Now is a better time than ever to be able to do it. We have a lot of free time and to be able to do something productive like this, when you see the smiles, it feels so good. You see the kids battling and fighting the good fight here in the hospital and it’s impressive to see the spirits they’re in. It’s a humbling experience for all of us and for myself personally.”

When the players arrived, seven-year-old Miriam Olleik presented them with a large, home made “Thank You, Sens” card, designed by 17-year-old Jennifer Burke and signed by all the young patients.

There were cheers and chants – the players were greeted with a “Go Sens Go” chorus – even though the 2012-13 season keeps fading away due to the lockout.

The CHEO visits are mutually beneficial, but they’re not always so public. Chris Kelly, the former Senators centre who lives in Ottawa during the off-season, quietly brought the Stanley Cup here after winning the NHL championship with the Boston Bruins in 2011.

Methot says Tuesday’s visit was a chance for him to act like a big kid in front of a crowd happy to receive attention from big league hockey stars.

“I like to be around kids, so it’s easy for me to have fun with them here and joke around with them,” he said. “And I think they like that, too, and even though they might not come close to recognizing me at all, at least they’ll remember the goofy guy who was in the room here with them. I’m just trying to make them laugh, keep them smiling. They kind of look at me funny once in a while.”

For a few hours at least, Methot wasn’t thinking about the lockout. What’s interesting, though, is even though he has taken part in a long list of community-oriented events since being acquired from Columbus in a trade for Nick Foligno back in July – including charity games in Cornwall, Yellowknife, Inuvik, Whitehorse and Kemptville – he still hasn’t played a game for his hometown team.

“I feel like I’m a Senator,” he said. “I haven’t been able to wear the jersey, at least not the game one. That opportunity will come. I hope soon. But the guys here have welcomed me pretty well, to be involved in all the charity things we’ve been doing. I love to be able to do that, especially in my home city. That’s a special feeling.”

CONDRA RETURNS: Erik Condra has spent the past two months as a scoring star in Germany, but if he had his way, he would prefer to his role as a checking winger with the Senators.

“I hope it gets done while I’m here,” Condra said about negotiations between owners and players towards a new collective bargaining agreement.

Condra returned from Germany on Monday, after compiling impressive statistics in a pair of German leagues. He scored eight goals and 11 assists in seven games with Fuessen in Germany’s third division, then added another 10 goals and five assists in 10 games with Riessersee in the second division.

“It was a great experience, in a beautiful part of the world. It always feels good to put up points and help teams that need you.”

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