Although the “little victors” at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital may not make it down to Joe Louis Arena for the Detroit Red Wings game Wednesday night, they still got the chance to see eight of their favorite players Tuesday at a player meet-and-greet at the University Hospital.

The players, including Jakub Kindl, Tomas Tatar, Brian Lashoff and Michigan State University alum Justin Abdelkader, brought patients Red Wings calendars and goodie bags and took pictures with the children and their families.

Christy Hammond, the community relations manager for the Red Wings, said the team typically makes one trip a season to the hospital to meet with patients. This year, players came a month early due to the National Hockey League’s Winter Classic game, a special match between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Big House on New Year’s Day. Last week, the players visited the Detroit Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital.

Hammond said the experience is especially eye opening for the players who have children of their own. She said it’s a rewarding day and a joy to bring smiles to the kids’ faces.

“You feel really blessed,” Hammond said. “I always say as much joy as our players bring the patients, I feel the patients bring our guys more.”

Players traveled from room to room and visited with children and their families for about an hour. Some of the patients, such as six-year-old Reese Sternhagen, a Livonia, Mich., native, hardly spoke around the players and looked shyly into the snapping cameras of their parents and a Wings photographer. Others, like 12-year-old Kaleb Sydloski, lit up with excitement when they players entered and questioned the players on their current season.

Grand Rapids resident Ellen Sydolski, Kaleb’s mother, said her son is a huge Red Wings fan.

“We just got some bad news, so this was great timing,” Sydolski said.

At one point, Tatar discussed his love of “The Big Bang Theory” with 19-year-old Cassie Pashby, and compared arm tattoos with 27-year-old Jonathan Murphy.

“She has jealous sisters and cousins,” joked Bay City native Mark Close, the father of 15-year-old Erica Close, as the players handed her a goodie bag filled with Red Wings paraphernalia.

The players aren’t the only Red Wings to visit the children’s hospital. Byron Meyer, a community relations specialist for Mott, said captain Henrik Zetterberg gave patients and their families tickets to a suite in the Big House this football season through the Zetterberg Foundation, which he and his wife Emma founded this year to give back to the Detroit community. Mike Babcock, the head coach of the Red Wings, also visits Mott throughout the year.

Michigan athletes and Olympic medalists are also active at Mott. Michigan student-athletes visit with patients every Thursday. Last year, Peter Vanderkaay, an Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer, came to see patients and was awarded the Mott Champions for Children Award.

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