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When seven-year-old Jacoby Zebinski arrived Monday at the Rehabilitation Centre for Children, he had one goal: meet Jack Roslovic, his favourite Winnipeg Jets player.

Mission accomplished.

Ten Jets players, including Roslovic, attended the Pacific Industrial-area rehab centre to sign autographs and take pictures with children who use its services. Jacoby was one of 60 children invited to the meet-and-greet.

Jacoby Zebinski, seven, poses for a photo with goalie Laurent Brossoit at the Winnipeg Jets' annual holiday visit to the Children's Rehab Centre in Winnipeg on Monday.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Jacoby Zebinski, seven, poses for a photo with goalie Laurent Brossoit at the Winnipeg Jets' annual holiday visit to the Children's Rehab Centre in Winnipeg on Monday.

"He doesn't get very many opportunities like this, so this was really big for us," said Jacoby's dad, Tyler. "We're extremely grateful and very happy."

Jacoby gets leg braces from the rehabilitation centre, which extends services to children with physical and developmental challenges, and sometimes has his wheelchair adjusted there. He's never been to a Jets game, but he and his dad watch the NHL team play on TV.

"It means a lot, to not only the children, but the families that (the Jets) take time out and recognize they've got some real special fans that don't often get a chance to meet them or go to a game," Tyler said.

Patrik Laine, Connor Hellebuyck, Neal Pionk, Logan Shaw, Nicholas Shore, Roslovic, Laurent Brossoit, Anthony Bitetto, Nathan Beaulieu and Joona Luoto arrived to find a crowd of young fans clad in hometown NHL gear.

Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck signs jerseys.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck signs jerseys.

Dominick Tetrault, 7, wore a Jets sweater and pyjama pants and carried a painting depicting the team's logo. He beamed as he looked at the nine signatures he had collected, covering the circle around the logo on his artwork.

"I wanted to fill up the circle," he said, adding he'll remember the day — and the players he met — for a long time.

Jets winger Shaw said meeting such young fans is rewarding.

"It's pretty awesome to be able to come here and put a smile on a kid's face that might not be having a great day," Shaw said. "I think to be able to give back to the community and to give back to these kids is pretty awesome."

Patrik Laine signs a jersey for five-year-old Creighton Deakin.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Patrik Laine signs a jersey for five-year-old Creighton Deakin.

The children in attendance brought a variety of items with them in hopes of a signature: Joel Schwersensky carried his toy semi truck; Elise Hindle had a bright blue puck.

Elise, 4, can't speak or walk. Her dad, Brock Hindle, wanted a signed puck for her to hang onto and play with. He also bought Elise a Jets jersey for the Monday event.

"It was wild because she watches the game with me," Hindle said. "We bought the jersey today, and it blew her mind."

Organizers have been preparing for the event for a month, said Christine Schollenberg, executive director of the Children's Rehabilitation Foundation.

"When you see the Jets come through the doors, and the smiles on the faces — it's a great day for (the kids)," Schollenberg said. "They're not doing the things that other kids do, so this is a really, really special day for them."

The children ended the meet-and-greet with a group picture with the pro hockey players, shouting "Go Jets! Go!" and lifting their index fingers in the air.

gabrielle.piche@freepress.mb.ca

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
The Headliner community journalist

Gabrielle Piché is the community journalist for The Headliner. Gabby is a cub reporter fresh from Red River College’s creative communications program. She majored in journalism and spent the summer of 2020 as an intern at the Winnipeg Free Press. Gabby also has a B.A. in communications from the University of Winnipeg. She reported for newspapers in the Interlake, including the Selkirk Record, in 2019, and received the Eric and Jack Wells Excellence in Journalism award in 2020. When she’s not chasing stories, you can find Gabby listening to podcasts, attempting yoga or petting somebody’s dog Email her at gabrielle.piche@canstarnews.com

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