Published Friday, 21 December 2012
The Belfast Giants bring festive cheer - and teddies - to children in hospital. (© UTV)
The big-hearted hockey stars have made it a tradition for the team, encouraging fans to throw teddies onto the ice at one of their home games before making the festive deliveries in person.
Giants defenceman Jeff Mason told UTV he was delighted to be involved for a third year.
"It gives you perspective on things when you see what some kids are going through," he said.
And his fellow defenceman Rob Sandrock definitely agreed it was great to help make a difference.
"For a parent to have to be in the hospital at Christmas with their child, I couldn't imagine how they feel," he told UTV.
"So if we can come in and brighten up their day, it means the world to us."
Especially around Christmas time, to be able to get out and hopefully put some smiles on people's faces ... It means a lot to myself and the guys.
Jeff Mason, Belfast Giants
And the young patients receiving their gifts, and their families, were thrilled by the visits.
Among them was 13-year-old Marky Douglas - a huge fan of the Belfast Giants, who had to miss out on an opportunity to watch his side in action because he injured his leg while ice-skating.
Little did he know, he'd be getting to meet the players after all.
"It was really good 'cause I've followed them for five years at the Odyssey," he said.
But on Friday night, the Giants will be feeling anything but charitable towards their visiting opponents, Coventry Blaze.
The two sides have only met twice before this season, with a double-header in Coventry in early November - but those two games saw the teams rack up an impressive 22 goals!
And this will be a vital clash in the race for the Elite League title, with the Blaze currently fifth in the table - six points behind the Giants.
"I always say the league splits into three after the New Year and hopefully we'll still be in the pack chasing the title," Coventry's coach Paul Thompson said.
But with first Coventry at home and then a trip to face the Sheffield Steelers on Sunday, the Giants know they've got a big task ahead of them.
"This weekend will be a real test for us," head coach Doug Christiansen said.
"We know how important the points are this weekend for us, so we will be prepared for everything that both the Blaze and the Steelers throw at us."
Face-off in the Belfast Giants home game against Coventry Blaze on Friday is at 7.30pm.
© UTV News