Mission possible for Sens

EARL MCRAE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:07 AM ET

"We get requests every day for the players to do this and that. We don't have anything officially with The Mission. The guys do a lot of things on their own that people don't know about."

-- Brian Morris, media relations, Ottawa Senators

Visiting the Ottawa Mission is not one of the things Senators players do on their own that people don't know about -- nor has the Mission ever requested it from the club. It is, simply, something that should be done through an individual, compassionate heart, a heart that, should it ever happen, would be lovingly embraced by misfortune's children.

The Senators players give of themselves for some wonderful causes in the community, but Marie Springall wishes they would do one more: Drop in to the Ottawa Mission on Waller St., home of the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the lost.

SENS NUTS

Marie Springall read my column of several weeks ago that expressed the desire from the guys at the Mission -- almost all of them Senators nuts who watch every televised game in the lounge -- to have a player privately and informally visit them on an off day or off night for no other purpose than to shoot the hockey breeze and sign some autographs.

For the men at the Mission -- young, old, good people brought down by life's demons, and who could never afford to go to a Senators game -- having one of their heroes show up for a visit would be the closest thing to heaven.

The player (or players) would also discover what a fine place the non-profit, privately funded Ottawa Mission is with its many rehabilitative programs under the leadership of the remarkable Dianne Morrison. Although famous, wealthy, and privileged, some of the players might, themselves, have family members and friends who've fought, or are fighting, alcoholism, drugs, and who've descended into a personal hell.

Reader Marie Springall's first e-mail plea to the Senators was Nov. 17 and when she didn't hear back, she wrote again Nov. 29, and when she didn't hear back, she wrote again Dec. 7, and then got an e-mail that day from Shaundra Mitchener, community relations and administrative co-ordinator for the Ottawa Senators Foundation, saying that "an activity such as this" is up to the individual players and that the Foundation "has no involvement in these decisions."

"Just think," said Marie Springall in one of her e-mails, "what it would be like for some of these poor, unfortunate people to have someone from the team go to see them. We all have so much at Christmas, and these poor people have very little. Just a few minutes, please."

Brian Morris mentions the enormous charity work the players are involved in officially through the club's foundation, but as for a player, or players, visiting the Mission, it would have to be on their own time and initiative, and the club would have no problem with that.

Diane Morrison says no player has ever paid the men at the Mission a visit, except for former Senator Laurie Boschman earlier this year, but that was through his friend, an ex-president of the board, and to "give the staff a boost." She mentions that two Christmases ago, the Sens donated 230 team toques, and just a few days ago, a cheque arrived from the Sens Foundation for $2,500, the first time that has happened.

GIVING BACK

At the Sens practice Saturday, I spoke to players Luke Richardson, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson. Only Alfredsson had not heard of the Ottawa Mission. Richardson: "When I was playing in Tampa, my wife and two daughters and I went to several Christmas dinners at the church. This year, I've contacted The Shepherds of Good Hope here in Ottawa, and my wife and daughters and I are all going down Christmas Day to pitch in. To give back, to do something to help others, you feel good about yourself. It keeps your eyes open to other things. As for the Mission, absolutely I'd like to visit. And I will. These are things that you shouldn't just do on Christmas Day."

Spezza: "I've heard about the Mission. I hadn't thought about it, but sure, it's definitely something I'd like to do. We try to focus on children, but places like the Mission, we overlook that. I'd have no problem meeting the guys, but I wouldn't want it a big media thing. It'd be private on my own."

Alfredsson: "I do so many community things on my own now, I don't think I'd have the time. But it sounds like a great organization."

Once upon a time, there was a player who did things on his own that people didn't know about. Every year at this time, he'd buy gifts and load up his car trunk and visit the homeless in shelters and children in hospital in Chicago and Winnipeg.

He was the greatest hockey player of his time and his name was Bobby Hull, The Golden Jet, and he once said this:

"I've never been a big wheel. I've never looked at people doing what some might consider menial jobs and felt that I'm a hockey player and I'm so and so and this much better. I've never felt my time is so valuable that I can't stop by for an hour or half an hour or even a minute to please people. I'm a human being. It's people that make a place, that make life worth living, not cars, wealth, status and such things."

If you, Ottawa Senators player, are reading this, harken to the gospel of Bobby Hull and phone Diane Morrison at 613-234-1144. Tell her when you'd like to drop in to meet the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the lost.

Between you and them, nobody else to know. Promise.


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