I fight for my grandma, Dollie Pinkert.
I fight because she fought, too.
Back in 2008, when she first got the bad news from doctors, she put up her fists like Tony Twist used to and she pounded cancer into submission.
From the moment I began working here, my grandma was a Blues fan. Her favorite player then was Keith Tkachuk, but more recently, it was T.J. Oshie. She watched every game on TV - in fact, she watched so often that holy jumpin’ wasn’t just something Darren Pang would say - it was part of her vocabulary, too. At family get-togethers, she’d often give me her thoughts about how the Blues were playing, or ask: “How’s Oshie’s baby doing?”
About seven months ago, the cancer came back. At 86 years old, doctors recommended she try a less aggressive form of chemotherapy, so she took pills to fight it off. Five months later, the cancer had spread further and was continuing to grow, so the treatment was stopped all together.
During training camp, just as the preseason was beginning, I dropped by to visit and was taken aback by exactly how much had changed with her appearance since the week before. Of course, not wanting to show any shock or concern on my face, I played it cool. I sat by her bed and we talked, mostly about things that weren’t important… how training camp was going, how Oshie would fare in D.C., how the season would be starting soon and she’d need a TV in her bedroom so that she wouldn’t miss any games.
“I’ll get a TV. I’ll have your uncle bring one over,” she said.
As I said goodbye that day, I told her I’d be back to visit in a few weeks, that I was traveling to Dallas soon and that the team was taking me to Michigan to cover the team-building trip to Ann Arbor. She told me not to be worried about her situation back home, to go - “Travel the world, go do your thing,” she said.
That was the last conversation we had.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention her in today’s blog as the Blues get ready to host their annual Hockey Fights Cancer game tonight. Hopefully, through initiatives like tonight’s, we can make some progress towards finding a cure.
Cancer impacts us all. Alex Pietrangelo fights for his niece. Steve Ott fights for his mom. Kirk Muller fights for his dad and sister. Brett Hull fights for Jimmy Roberts.
We all fight for someone.
I fight for Dollie Pinkert.
Already down Paul Stastny (broken foot), Kevin Shattenkirk (lower-body), Robby Fabbri (concussion) and Patrik Berglund (shoulder), the Blues were dealt another significant blow Friday when forward Jaden Schwartz was injured in practice.
Schwartz had surgery on his broken ankle on Friday night, and the team announced earlier this morning that he’d be re-evaluated in 12 weeks.
“We weren’t expecting so much so soon, but that’s reality and we have to move past it,” Blues captain David Backes said of the injuries. “We talked all camp and in preseason about how we liked our depth and we’ve got different guys that are going to step in. (Ty Rattie) gets called in, we’ll give him a shot and we’ll roll healthy bodies back in as they come along.
“We’re going to miss those guys while they’re out, but we’ve got business to take care of with the guys in this room.”
Scottie Upshall, who was signed after taking a PTO in training camp, is one of the depth guys. He’ll move up to the second line tonight with Backes and Troy Brouwer due to injuries.
“They’re tough. They’re unfortunate, especially when two key contributors every night (go down),” Upshall said. “It’s part of the game, I can say that from experience. It makes us face adversity really early in the season, makes everybody do extra and fill roles. These guys are irreplaceable, but at the same time, everyone has got to step up and play that much better.”
One team that won’t be feeling sorry for the Blues is the New York Islanders, who traveled to St. Louis last night following a 5-3 loss against the Boston Bruins. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Islanders, who currently sit third in the Metropolitan division with nine points.
The puck drops at 7 p.m. tonight at Scottrade Center (FSMW, KMOX).
With news of the long-term injury to Schwartz, Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said tonight’s lineup was sort of a “scramble.” He’ll take the weekend to figure out to organize his lineup to deal with long-term injuries to Stastny and Schwartz, but fortunately, the Blues are hopeful to get Shattenkirk and Fabbri back on Tuesday.
Here’s what you can expect to see tonight:
Steen - Lehtera - Tarasenko
Upshall - Backes - Brouwer
Jaskin - Gomez - Rattie
Ott - Brodziak - Reaves
Bouwmeester - Pietrangelo
Gunnarsson - Parayko
Edmundson - Bortuzzo
Right now, the Blues are thankful they signed veteran players like Upshall and Scott Gomez following training camp.
“One came in as the 13th (forward) and one came in as the 14th, now they’re both playing in the top nine,” Hitchcock said. “It’s funny how things work out. You just never know in this business. Thank God we have veteran players that can come in and do the job.”
The Blues have won five consecutive games against the Islanders. Alexander Steen (two goals, four assists), Alex Pietrangelo (three assists) and Vladimir Tarasenko (three goals, one assist) each have active three-game point streaks against the Islanders.
Brian Elliott starts in goal and will be looking for the first 5-0 start of his career.
A pregame Hockey Fights Cancer rally will begin on 14th Street outside Scottrade Center today at 3:30 p.m. Fans can enjoy live music from Story of the Year and a special red carpet-style entrance as children battling cancer will escort Blues players into Scottrade Center when they arrive for the game.
The Blues will wear special Hockey Fights Cancer jerseys during warm-ups tonight. Jerseys will be autographed and auctioned online through November 2. The team is also selling grey Hockey Fights Cancer beanies at Section 124 for $20 each and will be holding a special silent auction outside Section 124. All proceeds will benefit Hockey Fights Cancer.
Fans are also encouraged to bring a photo of someone affected by cancer to pin on our whiteboard (see the video by visiting stlouisblues.com/HFC).