On a day between games, during a week where they’d already played three, after a practice that would normally signify the end of the work day, the LA Kings players put in a little overtime, to do something they do every year.
Despite the shortened season, the Kings managed to squeeze in their annual team visit to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, to help brighten the day for children who haven’t had it so easy.
The Kings, the only Los Angeles-based team to make a regular team visit to CHLA, arrived at the hospital and started by breaking off into groups and visiting inpatients and their families in various wards of the facility, bringing Kings souvenirs and autographed merchandise.
“You go into the room for maybe a minute or two and it seems like they forget all about their problems,” said Kings team captain Dustin Brown. “The really cool thing about it is that sometimes these kids have no clue what hockey is or who we are and they’re just happy someone is coming to visit them and it has a big impact on their day.”
Kids undergoing outpatient procedures at CHLA had a chance to meet the Kings as well during an hour-long interactive session that enabled kids to make crafts, take photos, participate in a hockey-themed play area with the players, as well as acquire the usual autograph.
Many of the kids who join in for this portion of the Kings’ visit are hockey fans who are excited to meet their idols. One eight-year-old boy from Lancaster came in with a Kings cast on his leg.
“I think we’re in a unique situation to be here to help out in any way we can, whether that means put a smile on a kids face or give them a signed banner to put up in his room,” said center Jarret Stoll.
“We’re very fortunate to be mostly healthy and doing what we want to do, but there are some people that need help out there and we’re glad to be here and show our support.”
As happy as the players are to spend some time at CHLA, undoubtedly the most excited are kids like 16 year-old Emily Barnett from Burbank, who suffers from anaplastic medulloblastoma, a highly malignant primary brain tumor.
Emily is a big Kings fan, as is her mother, Lisa, whose cell phone wallpaper is a photo of Emily cheering in her Kings t-shirt after the Kings won the Stanley Cup last June.
“Things like the team visit make going through this experience a lot easier,” said Lisa, a Kings fan since the 1990s. “You can see how happy she is because she is able to meet the Kings.”
The best part of the day for Emily was getting to meet her favorite player, goaltender Jonathan Quick.
“He showed me a picture from his phone from when they won the Stanley Cup,” said Emily, beaming.
CHLA is one of four non-profit organizations each receiving $250,000 from the Kings Care Foundation this season, and it’s easy to see why, based on the raw interaction between the players themselves and the patients who benefit from the donation.
“Our team is invested in coming out here and supporting the organization and that shows. All the guys see a value in supporting CHLA,” said James Cefaly, the Kings senior director of fan development and community relations. “Some of them have personal experiences with the hospital from their own families and they see firsthand what great work the hospital does.”
“The Children’s Hospital is an entity I’ve worked with on my own, and having kids it does put things in perspective,” echoed Brown, a father of three.
“We do a lot of events as a team, and the one event that no player ever complains about is coming here because they understand that whether you’re in a 10-game losing streak or things are going well on the ice, you come here and it kind of opens everyone’s eyes for at least a few hours to see that there are bigger things going on.”