The Toronto Maple Leafs held their annual Canadian Armed Forces night as they hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night at Scotiabank Arena.
Canadian soldiers were honoured in a video tribute before the game and the family of Cpl. Jeremy Hillson, who is serving in Iraq, was invited to centre ice to drop the puck.
Hillson’s wife, Jen, along with their children Mason and Dakota were asked to perform the ceremonial puck drop.
Major-General Omer Lavoie, a 36-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, also took part in the puck drop as Hillson was still serving with the 3rd Royal Canadian Regiment in Iraq.
As a video message was played from Hillson on the scoreboard, his wife Jen smiled and looked up, fighting back the emotions of seeing her husband.
Leafs alternate captain Morgan Rielly and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby skated to centre ice for the puck drop.
A problem arose when Lavoie turned to Jen and asked: “do you have the puck?” — “no” — she replied with a laugh.
Lavoie then turned to Rielly and Crosby who also chuckled as they said they didn’t have the puck either.
Then cue the waterworks as Cpl. Hillson appeared, home from Iraq and walking out to centre ice with the puck.
Hillson hugged his family and Jen was overcome with emotion. The entire arena seemed to be caught up in the heartwarming moment as even Leafs head coach Mike Babcock seemed choked up.