Phillip Danault’s recent encounter with a military troop reminds us how caring and passionate the LA Kings center is.

There was a palpable sense of excitement when the LA Kings signed him this past offseason, and for good reason.

An established veteran with a sharp defensive prowess, Phillip Danault is just what the Kings need at this important juncture. His abilities were, after all, on display last spring when the 28-year-old helped lead the Montreal Canadiens to an unexpected run to the Stanley Cup Final — the club’s first since 1993 when Danault was just a few months old.

But, there’s more to the Victoriaville, Que., native than what he brings to the ice.

Last Saturday in Winnipeg, just before his team’s matchup against the Jets, one particular sign from a fan caught Danault’s eye during warmups.

The sign was from a member of the Canadian Armed Forces asking the Kings’ centerman for a puck in exchange for one of his military patches.

Danault agreed as the two shared a nice moment before the game was underway.

Earlier this week, the former Canadien spoke to the media about the encounter.

“Yeah, I think I definitely won that trade,” Danault said half-jokingly. “It was a great moment. You don’t expect that, you don’t expect to live those moments, but yeah, I just saw my name on his [sign] and said, ‘If you score three goals, I’ll give you a souvenir and give me a souvenir, as well.’ So, I just gave him the puck. I wish I could give him a stick but it was the moment I got caught and I gave him the puck.

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Danault didn’t score a hat-trick that night. In fact, he was held pointless and finished the evening with a minus-two rating. That, however, pales in comparison to the emotion that came with his pre-game encounter.

“I think it shows my support for the military,” Danault stressed. “They serve us in Canada and the U.S. and it’s awesome. They do so [many] things in the shadows, so we respect them a lot and I think it was an honour for me to give my puck and to also receive a patch from a great guy.”

Some may think highly of the military due to having family or friends of their own serving. This wasn’t the case for Danault, though.

“Not really,” the 28-year-old said in response to having any family serving in the military. “But, as hockey players, we recognize those for what they do. [The trade] was easy for me, definitely. It was great.”

We see plenty from professional athletes in terms of their on-ice — or on-field or on-court — talents and even their contributions in their communities. Rarely, however, do we see athletes interact directly with members of the military, however.

Arenas across the National Hockey League will pause to salute selected members of the military, who are justifiably met with standing ovations, but a one-on-one encounter is not quite as common. Phillip Danault, whether or not it was his intention, gave us a stark reminder as to how appreciative he is of the military, both for his native Canada and his resident United States.

These encounters — nay, these relationships — may not give those like Danault any goals or assists but it does give us a refreshing reminder that the former Canadien is an appreciative human being who is caring and passionate about who serves his countries and the tireless — and sometimes thankless — work that they do.

Cheering on a player like Danault means so much more when you add that all-important human aspect to the mix — someone who appreciates the freedom he has and who has fought for it.

He may be a defensive stalwart and he may be a great leader but being a compassionate human being is, first and foremost, what makes Phillip Danault such an invaluable to the LA Kings — or any team, for that matter.

That’s just how it is.

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