In the first round of the 2009-2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, goalie Jaroslav Halak broke my heart, and the hearts of all other Washington Capitals fans, as he stymied the high-powered offensive attack originating from Verizon Center. Reading this TSN.ca article about him today made me appreciate of the person he is and created a fan.

The 25-year-old Halak may have been traded to the St. Louis Blues, but it hasn’t deterred fans in Montreal from appreciating his heroics in the 2009-2010 post-season run for the Canadiens.

The Slovakian netminder had a going-away autograph session that brought thousands of fans to Pointe-Claire, Que.,and all autograph proceeds ($20 per signature) to the Ste Justine children’s hospital.

I’ve seen players in multiple sports take out full-page ads in newspapers to thank fans of a city they are leaving, via free agency or trade. This approach reaches a new level of what being a professional athlete, a true member of the community and a good, appreciative person is and should be. It’s nice to see a multimillionaire recognize it is a privilege, not a right, to play the sport he loves and try to give back to those who supported him.

I do understand he probably did make some money off of this, seeing as it was a sporting goods chain that approached his representatives regarding the opportunity. But if you watch the video of Halak’s interview, he appears to be speaking from the heart and stayed an extra 90 minutes to make sure everyone who showed up got the autograph they were seeking.

Good luck in St. Louis, Jaro – and I’m glad you’re no longer in the Eastern Conference.