MONTREAL - The fight against prostate cancer is close to Jeff Petry's heart.
Back in March 2014, Petry's paternal grandfather, Ronald, passed away from the disease in Southern California. He was 85 years old.
With that in mind, the Canadiens' No. 26 - along with alumnus Steve Begin - are serving as two of PROCURE's official ambassadors for the 2016 BOWVEMBER campaign, working in conjunction with Quebec's sole charitable organization that is exclusively dedicated to beating prostate cancer through research, awareness, education, and support for patients and their families.
"Every year when November comes around and it's Hockey Fights Cancer, it's something that I like to get involved in because I've been affected by it directly. It means a lot," said Petry. "That's just more of an incentive to get involved. I think it touches everybody in one way or another."
Despite the geographical distance between them - from the time Petry was growing up in Michigan to his time at Michigan State University and then into adulthood as an upstart NHLer in Edmonton before arriving in Montreal - the 28-year-old defenseman and his grandfather maintained a strong bond up until his passing just over two-and-a-half years ago. That made his decision to partner with PROCURE and actively combat the disease an easy one.
"We were close. Especially in the summers, he was always coming out to Michigan with my grandma and travelling around for our baseball tournaments and everything like that. Once I turned pro, when I was with Edmonton, playing in Anaheim twice a year, he would come out to the games," recalled Petry with a smile, reminiscing about time spent with his grandfather.
"As a kid, my grandparents always had timeshares, so we went to Branson, MO quite a bit and the Ozarks as well. We would always have baseball games there and then stay at the timeshare and go out on the water. I have a picture of us together sitting on his lap driving the boat. I think that was the first time. That was special," added the eight-year NHL veteran, who will also be showing his support for men's health by partaking in the annual Movember campaign and growing a moustache all month long, along with fellow Habs Carey Price, Brendan Gallagher, Shea Weber, Nathan Beaulieu, Phillip Danault, Zach Redmond, and Andrew Shaw.
Petry also recalls a time several years ago when he was rehabbing from an injury while his grandfather was still undergoing cancer treatment in California. The pair reached out to one another at the time to share messages of love and support.
"He was sick at the time. I had gotten hurt right before the trade deadline, I think. I sent my aunt [Teresa] a picture. She was with him at the same time that I was getting treatment in the locker room. He was getting his treatment as well. He gave me a little thumbs up; just the two of us kind of supporting each other," mentioned Petry. "That's something that really sticks out."
Given what his grandfather endured and what countless others worldwide have either battled through or are currently battling, Petry's message with respect to prostate cancer prevention and treatment is of critical importance.
"I would just encourage people that if it runs in their family, to get it checked," stressed Petry, on the subject of the most commonly-diagnosed cancer among Canadian men every year, according to PROCURE. "Even if it doesn't [run in your family], do the screening and the check up because it's something that, if caught early, can often be cured."
On Saturday night, the Canadiens will dedicate the game against the Detroit Red Wings to PROCURE. A booth located across from section 103 will provide details about PROCURE's mission of providing scientific assistance and accessible information to the public as a means to help prevent and cure prostate cancer.
In honor of International Men's Day on November 19, PROCURE also encourages all Quebecers to wear the bow tie and share their photos on social media using the #bowvember hashtag, thereby positioning the menswear accessory as the new symbol for the cause.