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Fighting back

Canucks honour family and friends battling cancer

by Derek Jory @NoJoryous / Canucks Writer

One of the most important lessons a hockey player ever learns is that it's all about the logo on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back.

Today, it's the name on the back that matters for the Canucks.

November 17th is Hockey Fights Cancer Night at Rogers Arena; the NHL-wide initiative to raise money and awareness for cancer research was founded in 1998 and helps local cancer patients and their charitable organizations.

In addition to wearing Hockey Fights Cancer helmet decals and using lavender stick tape, the Canucks sported lavender jerseys at morning skate and will for warm-up, with the name of someone they're fighting for in the name of cancer on the back.

The idea came from Canucks assistant equipment manager Brian Hamilton, who envisioned a new way of honouring family and friends either battling or who have lost their fight with cancer.

Hamilton's father Don, who died of esophageal cancer in 2003, will be honored by Daniel Sedin. Other Canucks staff with family members acknowledged will be Tara Clarke, program manager, whose mother Donna passed away in 2015 from liver cancer, and Alfred De Vera, media relations coordinator, whose 37-year-old sister Abigail is battling colorectal cancer. Henrik Sedin will wear Donna, while Markus Granlund's jersey will say De Vera.

Every jersey will have a story and the players are proud of to be wearing them.

Video: Hockey Fights Cancer - Canucks Jerseys

S. Paulette will be across the back of Erik Gudbranson's jersey, the S is for Steve, the father of the billet family that took Guddy in for a year while he played for the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs.

Steve was diagnosed with stage four thoracic cancer this past September and "is in real battle now. But if anyone is going to overcome this, it's him."

Gudbranson was 18-years-old when he lived with the Paulette family and they became just that.

"He and his wife Wendy opened their home to me and made me feel just like I was at home at my parent's house," said Gudbranson. "At that age, that's really important. Even though we were just two hours from home and saw our parents every weekend, it's still needed. They were positive, pushing me to be the best I could and supporting my decisions. I have a lot of thanks to give them.

"Steve remains a good buddy of mine. I just talked to him earlier this week, actually. He's in a pretty serious battle, so I call him and try to lift his spirits."

Bo Horvat's grandfather John died of colon cancer in 2010 and like Gudbranson, he can't say enough about the positive impact the relationship had for him. Horvat is relishing the opportunity to honour grandpa.

Horvat was 14 when John, his dad's dad, passed away, but he's never far from Bo's thoughts.

"It's going to be really special day," said Horvat. "I think about him all the time, miss him all the time and to have a jersey in memory of him, it's going to be amazing. I'll be giving it to my grandma, Joan.

"We had an unreal 14 years together. He was one of my biggest fans ever, whenever I had a game close or he could get to my game, he was there cheering me on. He was always taking me fun places, out for dinner or whatever; I basically lived at the rink so he helped with a lot of the travel when I was little."

Horvat's not so little anymore, but he still looks up to his grandfather and says he sees a lot of John in himself.

"John was laidback, everybody loved him and wanted to be around him because he was such a great guy. Hopefully I carry those traits with me.

"It was tough to see him go, but I know he's proud of me and he's watching from up above."

In addition to all the Hockey Fights Cancer tributes mentioned, the Canucks will make a $5,000 donation to Ronald McDonald House B.C., and an oncology patient from BC Children's Hospital will take part in a ceremonial puck drop.

Fans can support Hockey Fights Cancer by purchasing special hats and jerseys from the Canucks Team Store. Fans can also visit www.hockeyfightscancer.com to purchase Hockey Fights Cancer merchandise, to download their own "I fight for" sign and to make a donation.

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