By Bill Hudson

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Hat tricks are one of the most celebrated accomplishments in all of hockey.

And when a Minnesota Wild player does it, even Children’s Hospitals gets in on the fun.

So when Wild center Eric Staal scored three goals on Feb. 27 against the St. Louis Blues, hockey tradition sent hats raining onto the Xcel Energy Center ice.

On Monday at St. Paul Children’s Hospital, the party continued.

With Wild mascot Nordy at his side, Staal entered the hospital’s “Child Life Zone,” to spread the joy with kids and their families. Once inside this larger than life play room, he’d autograph hats, pose for pictures and play a little floor hockey with children like Liam Caldwell.

“When you have the likes of Eric Staal and all that coming in, the team players, you feel like you’re not forgotten,” said Liam’s father, Andy.

Visits such as this are a big reason the Wild stays connected with the broader community. Together with the Minnesota Wild Foundation, the team and its Hockey Lodge are donating to charities the equal number of hats that fans tossed onto the ice following Staal’s feat. That’s a total of 221 team hats.

For parents of patients, visits such as Staal’s give a huge boost in spirits to kids badly needing one.

“It gets them down here out of their rooms and gives them something to look forward to, it’s huge,” Tania Gray said.

A simple visit by a professional athlete can lift families who may not have a lot to cheer about. Families that are often overwhelmed by their daily medical challenges.

“It was a great surprise. We were not exactly expecting it today, this has been a good part of the day,” said Ligeia Baumhofer, mother of a premature infant.

So with a stack of hats, Staal signed each one with a smile. Knowing full well that scoring goals is a gift, but lifting spirits is a true treasure.

Since a total of 221 hats were ceremoniously tossed onto the ice after Staal’s hat trick, that same number will be donated by the Minnesota Wild to charities all across the state.


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