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Byron: 'People just need to keep donating'

Calgary Flames assistant GM Chris Snow can count on Paul Byron's support in his battle with ALS

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

MONTREAL - If you aren't familiar with Calgary Flames assistant general manager Chris Snow's story, we invite you to learn a little bit more about it.

News of his Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) diagnosis was revealed in December by his wife, Kelsie, in an article entitled "Dear Hockey Family" on the Flames' website.

The 38-year-old Melrose, MA native has Familial ALS, which previously claimed the lives of his father, both of his paternal uncles, and one of his cousins.

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman also caught up with Chris and Kelsie in early January for a poignant interview about the family's battle with the disease and their efforts to raise funds for research towards finding a cure.

Watch: Youtube Video

Snow's diagnosis came as a real shock to his colleagues around the hockey world, including players he'd worked with over the years.

One of those athletes was Paul Byron, who was traded to the Flames in June 2011 just as Snow began his tenure as the club's director of hockey analysis.

Byron still remembers one team dinner, in particular, that afforded the pair an opportunity to enjoy a good chat.

"I sat beside Chris and his wife and got to know him a little bit. What stood out to me was that he was a good person, a good family person. We spoke about our kids. We could relate a bit there," recalled Byron of his interaction with Snow, the former director of hockey operations of the Minnesota Wild. "You could also sense his passion for the game of hockey. He's a pretty smart guy."

While Snow "can't take any credit" for Byron's acquisition by the Flames, he recollects that the former sixth-round selection was well-respected by team brass.

Byron played 130 games with Calgary before being claimed off waivers by the Canadiens in October 2015.

"Paul was so universally likeable to our staff because of how fast he was, how hard he competed, and how he just willed himself to make a difference. He was just universally someone easy for each member of our group to say "This is a guy that we wanted to have." I always found him very easy to talk to and very engaging," praised Snow. "We'd have good little conversations in airport security lines flying with the team or at team dinners. There are certain guys you just have more conversations with, and Paul was one of those guys."

When Byron learned of Snow's diagnosis, he joined a group of fellow NHLers in recording video messages of support and encouragement.

The gesture was greatly appreciated by Chris, Kelsie, and their children, Cohen, 8, and Willa, 5.

"I watched Paul's video, and it was one of the more meaningful ones to us because of the depth he went into and the things he said. Paul's meant a lot because I know him," mentioned Snow. "What meant a lot as well was that peers of mine, assistant GMs, went to these players. They were proactive and they've been caring."

"Proactive" is the best word to describe the Snow family's fundraising initiatives on both sides of the border for critical ALS research and new and emerging treatments. 

"Snowy Strong for ALS" has raised approximately $120,000 to benefit the Sunnybrook Brain Sciences Centre in Toronto and the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine.

"We need to end this thing. Quality of life and care for people with ALS is very important," insisted Snow. "The top priority for us is contributing to finding a solution."

To learn more about the "Snowy Strong" fundraising campaigns and to donate, click here.

Status update

Snow is currently participating in a clinical drug trial that has him feeling healthy.

He even returned to the ice earlier in the week at the Scotiabank Saddledome sporting full equipment, including a modified glove to compensate for the lack of strength in his right hand.

Tweet from @ChrisSnowCGY: Felt so good to have full equipment on for the first time since I don���t know when. And even better to have my son on the ice and my daughter on the bench. Did not win a single battle out there, but I am winning the one that matters most. #EndALS #SnowyStrong #FlamesFamily pic.twitter.com/Abks4ULxfW

"Every time I put my skates on, equipment or not, and I put that glove on, I feel normal," explained Snow. "I feel especially normal on the ice because I'm moving and doing things I wouldn't think I'd be able to do."

But he's doing it and that's what matters most. Snow even took part in a parents vs. kids game on Thursday night on a local outdoor rink and had a blast.

The bottom line is this…

"Nobody should walk into a doctor's office in 2020 and be told that they have something and there's nothing that can be done for it," said Snow. "What we need now is for there to be more promising trials that progress towards drugs that halt this altogether, or at least can meaningfully extend the lives of people with this disease. Those trials are coming fast."

Tweet from @ChrisSnowCGY: This was Sept. 8, 2014. In the 10 years prior I had lost two uncles to ALS. In the 5 years since I have lost a cousin and my dad and the use of my right hand. We can #EndALS, but it is going to take a lot of people willing to give a little. To help visit https://t.co/rgWfPCOrpt. pic.twitter.com/3rWdC8loUL

And the Habs' forward is among the many people standing behind Snow in his quest to beat ALS and make a difference for those afflicted by it.

"People just need to keep donating and contributing to the cause," said Byron. "Eventually we're going to break that barrier and be able to treat it one day. Hopefully Chris' trial is a start to that. It's really encouraging for everybody."

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