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.
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.
"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.
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."
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.
Community Correspondent — Headingley
Gabrielle Piché is a community correspondent for Headingley. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated on Monday, December 9, 2019 at 10:34 PM CST: Fixes misspelled name