ST. LOUIS, Mo. – If you're the St. Louis Blues, spreading holiday cheer can be as simple as reaching out a hand to sign an autograph, or give a small waive.
But each December that sentiment is a little more special when the team makes their annual visits to local hospitals.
Vladimir Tarasenko, the Blues all-star right winger, was one of dozens of players to visit St. Louis Children's Hospital Wednesday.
“It feels pretty cool for us to share the day with them and give them some smiles," he said.
Other players visited other hospitals throughout the area. It's a tradition that's become an annual pilgrimage for the team.
And seeing the surprised look on the kids' faces makes every moment worth it, especially this close to the holidays.
“This is crazy. I did not expect you guys to be here. I have your jersey too," said St. Louis teen Alex Nistler to Tarasenko.
Alex will be having brain surgery on Thursday.
"If I had known you’d be here I would’ve worn my jersey," said Alex.
It’s a rewarding day – not just for the hockey players and the dozens of children getting a chance to meet their heroes, but also for the parents as well.
“I think it’s fantastic," said Tara Elston, whose son Jake is in hospital. "There’s the daily grind. You’re just sitting in the hospital room, trying to keep the kids occupied and busy. And to have them come in just brightens everyone’s day and it’s just such a gift.”
It's tough for guys like Tarasenko to see such youngsters in the hospital this time of year, but he hopes he's making a small difference.
“It’s sad when you see the kids sick," he said. “We just hoping to make them feel more positive and to get better.”