By Jenelyn Russo | Special to AnaheimDucks.com
Lifelong Anaheim Ducks fan Kevin Harrington is a firm believer in the maxim that sports imitate life. When life has dealt him difficult circumstances that have drastically changed his path, instead of giving up, the competitor in him fights back.
|After Harrington's pro baseball career came to an unexpected end, "It was then that I went back to playing hockey and started really following the Ducks again. Hockey and the Ducks helped pull me out of a very dark place." |
A natural athlete, Harrington was born to play sports. The Simi Valley native excelled at every sport he tried, including football, baseball and hockey.
"I remember when the Mighty Ducks movies came out, I loved them," Harrington says. "My mom got me the movies and gave me a jersey and I lived in it. I would play street hockey all the time in my cul-de-sac for hours on end."
From the age of eight, Harrington spent time playing in a local roller hockey recreational league and attended Mighty Ducks games every chance he could get.
"Selanne and Kariya were my favorites," Harrington says of his early years as a Ducks fan. "They were so fun to watch."
But as he got into high school, football and baseball began to dominate his schedule. His accomplishments as a both a quarterback and a centerfielder at Royal High School led to offers to play NCAA Division I football with colleges such as USC and Notre Dame, as well as being drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 2006 MLB Draft.
The 6-foot 7-inch gifted athlete had a choice to make.
"Playing baseball fulfilled a dream I'd had my whole life," Harrington says. "I always wanted to be an MLB player."
So the then 18-year old was off to Fort Myers, Florida, for spring training and the start of his professional baseball career. But hockey and the Ducks were never far from his mind.
|"I've followed every Ducks season since the beginning, but this season alone, with the rough start the team had and being able to see them come back from adversity, it's been so great to watch." |
"I had a lot of teammates during that time that were from Canada, and we'd talk hockey all the time," Harrington says. "And I remember being in Florida [in 2007] when the Ducks won the Cup. It was after midnight, and I was running around the hotel banging on the doors of my teammates and celebrating. It was awesome."
Harrington was doing well in the Twins organization, playing Single-A ball with the Fort Myers Miracle and moving up in the ranks. But in 2010, his MLB career was cut short when a motocross accident left him with a severe eye injury and forced him to leave the sport.
Harrington headed back to California, settling in Camarillo, but the fizzling of his pro baseball dream left a gaping hole in his identity.
"I had to deal with the loss of not only my baseball career, but the loss of Kevin Harrington, the athlete," Harrington says. "It was very tough."
Battling depression, Harrington pushed back by turning to the only thing he knew - sports. And so along with spending time surfing and golfing, he began to play hockey again, joining local ice and roller adult leagues. Hockey turned out to be just the outlet Harrington needed.
"It was then that I went back to playing hockey and started really following the Ducks again," Harrington says. "Hockey and the Ducks helped pull me out of a very dark place."
But life was about to deal Harrington another devastating blow.
On February 28, when he and his girlfriend, Rikke, made their way down to Staples Center to watch the Ducks take on the Kings, Harrington knew something wasn't right.
"I wasn't feeling good at all," Harrington recalls. "Even though it was a great game and the Ducks won (defeating the Kings, 4-2), I didn't feel right all during the game and even the next day."
|"The guys didn't give up. They took it one game at a time. That's sort of become my motto now - one day at a time." |
In the week following, and after multiple doctor visits and a battery of tests, his fears were confirmed. Harrington had cancer, a very aggressive form of the disease found in multiple tumors in his body.
Immediate action was required. The shock of the news had little time to sink in before Harrington was forced to shift his focus. His days became filled with seemingly never-ending trips to the hospital, doctor appointments, MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds and biopsies.
A competitor to his core, Harrington decided he needed to push back. He was going to stay positive, and he was going to fight. And he's using Ducks hockey as his inspiration to do so.
"I've followed every Ducks season since the beginning, but this season alone, with the rough start the team had and being able to see them come back from adversity, it's been so great to watch," Harrington says. "The guys didn't give up. They took it one game at a time. That's sort of become my motto now - one day at a time."
The aggressive nature of the cancer has called for an assertive approach to his treatment. After having surgeries to remove several tumors, Harrington had a port placed in his chest earlier this week and will undergo chemotherapy in an effort to prevent the cancer from spreading.
|"Facing the surgeries and now the [chemotherapy] treatment, Ducks hockey, especially the playoffs, have been a good distraction for me," Harrington says. "The Ducks aren't quitting. They're fighting back, even in this series. It pushes that kind of thinking into my own life. I'm going to keep fighting too." |
Beginning Monday, Harrington will receive chemotherapy treatment for five days straight, and then once a week for three additional weeks. He will complete this cycle three consecutive times. The doctors are confident an early diagnosis along with Harrington's treatment plan will lead to a successful outcome for the 28-year old.
The road ahead looks daunting, and the battle will not be easy. But the way the Ducks have played and fought back this season are providing Harrington equal parts motivation and refuge. His optimism is unwavering.
"Facing the surgeries and now the [chemotherapy] treatment, Ducks hockey, especially the playoffs, have been a good distraction for me," Harrington says. "The Ducks aren't quitting. They're fighting back, even in this series. It pushes that kind of thinking into my own life. I'm going to keep fighting too."
Surrounded by the love of his family and friends, and sustained by the encouraging words of support from his extended Ducks family, Harrington is ready to take this newest challenge head on - one day at a time, one game at a time, one shift at a time.
"I've been dealt some bad cards, but I've dealt with adversity before," Harrington says. "I want the fighter to come out in me, and I know it will. I'm ready to fight and beat this thing."
If you would like to help with Kevin Harrington's cancer fight, visit his GoFundMe page.
Have your own unique Ducks Dedication story? Tell us about it here and you may be featured on AnaheimDucks.com.