BOSTON - Former Bruins defensemen Gary Doak scrapped, clawed, and fought every challenge he faced on the ice. Whether it was shutting down the elite scorers of the 1970s, sacrificing his body to block a shot, or dropping the gloves in defense of a teammate, Doak was willing to do whatever it took to help his team win. Over 14 seasons, 78 playoff games, and one Stanley Cup Championship with the Bruins, the Ontario native was embraced by the city of Boston.
Six years ago, Doak was faced with a new challenge: cancer.
The fan favorite fought with everything he had. His positive attitude and determination in the face of such a daunting battle were an inspiration to everyone around him. On March 25, 2017, Gary Doak passed away at the age of 71.
The beloved stay-at-home defenseman first gained recognition for his play with the Bruins. However, his actions after he retired from the sport of hockey left a proud legacy that even surpasses the accomplishments he achieved on the ice.
From 2006 to 2009, Doak teamed up with the Boston Bruins Foundation and the Dana-Farber Institute to participate in the Pan-Mass Challenge, a 192-mile bike ride to raise funds and awareness for the fight against cancer.
This year marked the 12th consecutive year the Boston Bruins Foundation sent a team to take on the Pan-Mass Challenge. A team of 35 riders hit the streets on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 5-6, with the ride dedicated to celebrating the life of Gary Doak.
The team is also riding in memory of Debbie McNamara, who survived her fight with Hodgkin's disease. Soon after, she became involved with the Pan-Mass Challenge. McNamara was one of the founders of the Boston Bruins Foundation team that first completed the Pan-Mass Challenge, and she participated in the ride around the Massachusetts panhandle for 10 years.
McNamara was then diagnosed with breast cancer, and after a long battle, she passed away earlier this year. She was an inspiration to the riders around her, and she played an invaluable part in fundraising for the Boston Bruins Foundation and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Zack Fitzgerald, a member of the Boston Bruins Foundation staff who worked hard to make the event possible, was excited to dedicate the ride to the two outstanding individuals.
"Gary Doak, a former Bruins defenseman, and Debbie McNamara, were two of the first people that started the Bruins Pan-Mass Challenge 12 years ago," said Fitzgerald. "Since then, the team has grown rapidly and obviously everyone has been impacted by cancer, so it is a great opportunity for everyone to get out there and raise funds for Dana-Farber ."
Shawn Mullen, a native of New Hampshire, has participated in the Pan-Mass Challenge for the past nine years, including the past eight with the Boston Bruins Foundation. The inspiration for his involvement came from his close friends and family.
"I got involved because my friend Tina was battling breast cancer, and my dad was a prostate cancer survivor so I signed up for the PMC that year and never looked back.," said Mullen.
Since the organization was founded in 1980, The Pan-Mass Challenge has raised more than $550 million. The Boston Bruins Foundation's riders joined thousands of riders on this journey from Sturbridge to Provincetown, Mass. In the last year alone, the B's Foundation Pan Mass Challenge Team raised over $227,000 for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
This year's Pedal Partner for the Boston Bruins Foundation Team was once again Cian Byrne, who was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma - a rare form of liver cancer - at just two years old. Cian's family met with a team at the Dana-Farber institute, and together they were able to choose the best form of treatment. In 2015, the family was overjoyed to receive the news that Cian's cancer had gone into remission. He was three years old. Today, Cian serves as an inspiration for the riders as living proof of how their efforts can make a direct impact and save lives.
Mullen, who is nearing $200,000 raised by all of his PMC rides, is thrilled at the support the Boston Bruins Foundation Team has received and the impact they have made.
"I want to say thank you to everyone…that has donated to a great cause. Dana-Farber gets 100% of the money, it's unrestricted funds, and it really is what the weekend is all about," said Mullen. "The hard part is raising the money, and we want to thank everyone who has come through for us year after year."
Video: Boston Bruins Foundation, Pan Mass Challenge Send Off