Corporal Jeremy Hillson threw us all for quite a loop on Saturday night.
With thousands at Scotiabank Arena to see the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Canadian Armed Forces Appreciation Night, as well as around a million more watching Hockey Night in Canada’s live broadcast, Hillson delivered a video message that was played on the arena’s Jumbotron before his wife and young family were to drop the puck for a ceremonial faceoff.
Hillson’s video and his family’s presence at the game represented all the members of the armed forces that were unable to attend the evening, and the annual tradition within the organization dating back to Conn Smythe’s days as the general manager of the team.
There was just one problem when the ceremonial faceoff was meant to take place: nobody had a puck. Pittsburgh’s captain Sidney Crosby, Toronto’s Morgan Rielly and members of the Hillson family got a pretty good laugh out of the crowd when their problem became apparent.
Thankfully, someone came to their rescue.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 3, 2019
It took a little bit of time for his family to realize exactly who was walking down the blue carpet with a piece of vulcanized rubber in hand. However, once they did, there were few dry eyes in the building or around television sets from coast-to-coast.
Even Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock was visibly impacted by the touching moment.
Honestly, I’ve watched the video about a dozen times now and it’s still doing a number on me.
It really was a kind, classy gesture by the Leafs organization to begin a very special evening in Toronto.
We can only hope that the players involved in the game were able to battle through the cloudy vision that a few tears shed might have caused early in the contest.
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