McWard makes memorable trip to Canuck Place

Darren Francis Photography

by Lindsey Horsting | AHL On The Beat

It’s the season of giving, and while the Abbotsford Canucks were giving it their all on the ice, they took some time to make a special stop at Canuck Place before the holidays.

Abbotsford Canucks defenseman Cole McWard attended the tree lighting and the light a life campaign at Canuck Place in early December. Inspired by the experience and moved by the people he met, he left the event feeling compelled to take his charitable efforts to the next level and make an even bigger impact in the community.

“It is important to me,” McWard said. “There’s so many blessings as far as being a pro athlete and being a pro hockey player. Appreciating the community that you’re playing in and trying to give back when you can, especially during Christmas and the holidays, is important.”

Canuck Place Children’s Hospice opened in 1995 to provide pediatric palliative care to children aged 0-19 with life-threatening illnesses. The Canucks Alumni Association has been involved with Canuck Place since its inception and the Abbotsford Canucks’ closest chapter is Dave Letty House in Abbotsford.

One of the patients at Canuck Place that McWard connected with was a young boy in a power chair who loves hockey. The child was sporting his Canucks hat, and his father came over to McWard and shared that his son would love to meet him. McWard was all-in.

Canuck Place director of communications and events Debbie Butt said it’s always touching to see young hockey players take the time to brighten a child’s day. Seeing McWard crouch down and chat with the patient made it such a memorable experience for not only the child, but his family as well.

“When they have these opportunities to connect with things that are important to their kids, those make very important memories for that family and they never forget them,” said Butt. “It was really nice that Cole was part of that special moment.”

The 22-year-old rookie went home that night and brainstormed different ways he could help the family create more happy memories.

“After we met, I figured if we could get in touch with them and maybe bring them out to a game around Christmas it would be exciting. I’d love to meet him again and maybe get them some more Canucks gear,” he said.

McWard also got to meet the Premia family, who lost a sister and a daughter in 2021 due to chronic kidney disease associated with Oral-facial-digital syndrome type 1. One of the sisters spoke at the event and after her speech McWard made his way on stage for a photo with the family, thanking the sister for sharing her story and spending some time getting to know the family.

“He reached out in a really kind way and was really thoughtful,” Butt said. “He talked to the parents as well and I thought Cole showed a lot of compassion.”

McWard is also working with Canuck Place to create opportunities for other children and families in the program to come to games. He’s done community work in the past when he attended Ohio State University, and he is coordinating with Canuck Place to set up more visits in the new year.

“It was genuinely great to hear just how the home had positively impacted people and made a dark time in someone’s life a little bit better by caring for people in that way.”

The Abbotsford Canucks are spreading holiday cheer and continuing to extend their impact beyond the ice. McWard’s dedication to community outreach reflects a player with a purpose, ensuring that the spirit of giving remains a constant throughout the seasons.