Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Couple of Habs give two young fans a special gift

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The requests for assistance that arrive here almost daily at the Last Stop for Help Desk elicit every kind of emotion, including -- on rare occasions -- the kind that make me smile.

Which is what happened in mid-December when, after several attempts elsewhere, Charleswood hockey mom Aimee Horbul's call for help finally arrived at the top of my inbox. Aimee explained her son, Jeremy, 12, and daughter, Kyla, 15, are mega-Montreal Canadiens fans, and since she hadn't been able to score any tickets for the Habs-Jets game here last Thursday, she was hoping to score an autograph or two. And maybe a photo.

But she didn't know how to go about finding the Canadiens when they arrived and getting close enough to ask.

By the time she contacted me, Aimee had learned the Canadiens wouldn't be arriving at Richardson International Airport's new terminal. Instead, they would be chartering and using a private facility on the other side of the runway.

"I don't want to give up on this dream," Aimee wrote. "Is there ANYTHING you can suggest I do to make this happen for my kids? My son is a huge Carey Price fan (has personalized jersey to match) and plays goalie because of him, and my daughter absolutely adores P.K. Subban (also has a personalized jersey to match). This would be the ultimate holiday gift I could present to them."

There was hope, I told her. And I gave her a couple of suggestions.

So it was that at about 1:30 a.m. last Thursday, Aimee and the kids drove out to the place the team was landing, only to learn the players were on their way to their hotel.

Aimee and the kids drove straight to The Fairmont as I had directed.

Too late again.

Which is how both the Horbul family and I ended up in the lobby of The Fairmont at 4 p.m. Thursday. It was just before 5 p.m. when, with hotel security and staff standing at the ready, Carey Price appeared in the lobby on the way to the bus that would take the team to the MTS Centre. Price stopped to sign Jeremy's sweater, but the Montreal goaltender wasn't in a friendly mood.

"I've got a game to play," the 24-year-old snapped when I asked if he could pose long enough to take a photo of him signing Jeremy's sweater. Understandable pre-game stress, I suppose, for a goalie who's on a team on a losing streak. At least I got the shot and he stopped and signed. Although not with the same infectious enthusiasm as defenceman P.K. Subban, who was all smiles for the kids and the camera.

And then there was the bonus. At the same time the Montreal Canadiens were walking out the front door of The Fairmont, the Pittsburgh Penguins were walking in. Not that any of the kids in Canadiens sweaters cared.

Later that night, Aimee took time to email her thanks.

"I'm so grateful to the players for taking the time to make these kids feel special."

That's really it, isn't it? Putting a smile on kids' faces and making them feel special. Some players get it.

But I'm thinking it wasn't so long ago that any of these same young men would have lined up all night in an airport terminal or a hotel lobby just to get an autograph from an idol.

And now they're the idols.


-- -- --

MORE PRAYERS, PLEASE... Abram Thiessen, the 18-year-old Canadian Mennonite University student who was the subject of last Saturday's column (An answer to prayers) was readmitted to St. Boniface Hospital that same Christmas Eve afternoon with an elevated heart rate.

Abram is still there, undergoing more tests. His medication has been adjusted and his heart rate is under control for the most part. But doctors are planning another procedure to "tweak" -- the word his father, Richard, uses -- the original one. All of which calls for the obvious. More prayers for Abram.


-- -- --

THE TALE END... Howard Raber, the locally based glove and mitt manufacturer, had something happen last month he's still talking about.

A sudden gust of wind ripped the wallet out of his big mitts as he was getting out of his car at the St. James Costco.

Bills went flying everywhere. Over cars, under cars, out on the boulevard. Then Howard watched as cars stopped, people got out and they all started chasing the money.

And returning it.

They returned it in the parking lot, they tracked him down inside. One guy, having been given Howard's description, even waited outside for him, cash in hand. Howard said he gave them all his card with an invitation to drop by Raber Glove. He figures $180 of about $200 he had in the wallet came flying right back. His grateful conclusion:

"Only in Winnipeg."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 29, 2011 B1

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