They have seen eight countries in eight days with the final two stops in New York and Toronto to be made this weekend. They have witnessed hundreds of smiling children on their journey and listened intently to their life stories.
But the narratives conveyed to ex-NHLers Rob Zamuner and P.J. Stock as well as NHLPA employees Matt Langen and Devin Smith when they visited Sarajevo, Bosnia on Thursday were overwhelming.
"Overwhelming is an understatement," said Smith, NHLPA Goals and Dreams chairman. "First to see what has happened here, to see the buildings with bullet holes and the rubble from the war. This was a place that had the Olympics in 1984 and then eight years later was in a war.
"These kids are so strong. They have seen a lot, lost parents and grandparents. But they were not afraid to tell us their stories and made it clear that they want to move on."
This month marks the 10th anniversary of the NHLPA Goals and Dreams grassroots program, which has benefited more than 40,000 children around the world.
As part of the celebration to mark the decade of donations, the NHLPA will deliver more than 360 sets of equipment worth approximately $180,000 US in their 10-day, 10-country tour.
Final European stop
On Friday, the tour made its final European stop when it visits Frankfurt, Germany. But Smith and the others were still talking about their experience in Sarajevo.
As part of their visit they were shown the bridge and monument where the first casualty of the war was gunned down by a sniper during a peace demonstration.
The NHLPA group was especially taken with young Mici Hordzic, who told the members of the travelling band at the end of their visit, "I will never forget this day as long as I live."
Hordzic, who lost his father and grandfather in the war, delivered a speech about his life to the rest of the children that was moving and inspiring. He told the children that after what he has experienced in Bosnia that he thought he could never trust again and always expected the worst.
That was certainly the case when he visited Canada a few years back. But with the kindness of the NHLPA program, he has learned to trust again.
"There wasn't a dry eye in the house," Smith said.
Afterward, Hordzic boarded a flight bound for Canada. He will see Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday and then participate in the Goals and Dreams end-of-the-tour celebration at the Hockey Hall of Fame on Sunday evening.
The program gave the Bosnia-Herzegovina Sports Foundation, a program started in 2002 by Canadian Brad Collins, 25 complete sets of new hockey equipment.
Getting youth involved
This grassroots organization began as a free ball hockey program designed to get youth off the streets, and in its first years of operation, kids in the program were playing with mismatched, used equipment or playing with none at all.
The tour has made stops in Sweden, Finland, Russia, Latvia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bosnia and Germany. On Friday, they visited Frankfurt to deliver 40 sets of equipment to youth players from the Frankfurt Lions, UJZ Glocksee EV and Fiets.
Former New York Rangers forward Adam Graves will be on hand Friday in New York City when the Goals and Dreams program distributes 50 sets of equipment to the Kip Bay Boys and Girls Club and to kids from the Madison Square Garden of Dreams organization.
During final-day celebrations in Toronto, children from Sir Stanford Fleming secondary school will receive sets of equipment.