In life, the battles we face can be just as daunting, especially when the opponent is cancer.
The Vancouver Canucks and the National Hockey League teamed up to raise money and awareness for local and national cancer care and research organizations Tuesday when the Canucks hosted the Boston Bruins on Hockey Fights Cancer night at GM Place.
October is Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Month in the NHL, an annual league-wide initiative that includes all 30 teams, and the Canucks did their part to help contribute to the $10 million already raised since this charitable event was founded in December 1998 by the NHL and NHLPA.
Three Cancer agencies, the Canadian Cancer Society, BC Cancer Agency and Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, were on hand providing information and collecting donations in two locations on the concourse and a special group from the oncology ward of the children's hospital watched the game in Lui's crease club, a suite at the 200 level that is donated by Roberto Luongo
The Canucks organization also showed their support in the press and broadcast booths and on the ice as the coaching staff, management and broadcasters sported lavender ties and pins, the players had cancer awareness decals on the back right side of their helmets.
Vancouver forwards Ryan Kesler
and Darcy Hordichuk were two players holding their heads especially high on the night as cancer, a disease that the Canadian Cancer Society estimates will cause 73,800 deaths in Canada in 2008, has personally affected both of their lives.
Kesler's father is a survivor of carcinoid cancer, which he was diagnosed with during the 2005-06 season, while Hordichuk's grandfather lost his battle with cancer in 2001.
"Anytime anyone hears cancer it really doesn't bring up good thoughts or good memories and I think everyone has known someone who has gone through it, so to raise money and awareness for it is very important," said Kesler, adding that his dad is now fully recovered and is doing well.
This past off-season while back home in Michigan, Kesler put the wheels in motion for a charity golf tournament that would raise money for the fight against cancer because he understands how devastating the disease can be.
"It's painful, especially when it's your father and someone you care about," said the 24-year-old. "I mean you never think cancer is going to come into your family, but it does hit almost every family.
"It was hard and it was really tough for me, I was lucky enough to be able to fly home, I was hurt then, and be able to spend some time with my dad and cheer him up that way because he took it hard."
Kesler said he and his family are a lot closer now as a result of the cancer scare, the same goes for Hordichuk and his family.
It's been seven years since the enforcer lost his 70-year-old grandfather to cancer and he applauds the NHL for establishing the Hockey Fights Cancer initiative so that others have a chance to overcome the disease that stole a loved one from him.
"He was an important part of my life growing up and he was a special person," said Hordichuk. "It was just one of those things where as soon as the cancer got to a certain point, it was tough for him to overcome that.
"I think it's a great thing that the league's been doing for a while. In the past we've had the stickers on the helmet but sometimes you play with the pink sticks then donate them too, so whatever we're doing it's for a good cause that the NHL got involved with. It's good to see because there are a lot of people that are affected by a loved one suffering from cancer so it's all about helping out and making people aware."
Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Month may almost be over, but the battle to stop this devastating disease will continue for the foreseeable future. Fans are encouraged to join the fight by calling 1-800-540-6500 or logging on to Hockey Fights Cancer
. All donations are tax-deductible with the funds going directly to local and national cancer research institutions, children’s hospitals, player charities and local cancer organizations.
Fans can also support Hockey Fights Cancer by purchasing ties, scarves, hats and more at Shop.NHL.com
In hockey, a bigger, tougher, faster opponent can be overcome.
In life, the battle against cancer can be won as well, but not without the generous support of the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks and you, the best fans in all of hockey.