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Hockey Fights Cancer hits home with Brouwer

The annual initiative is personal for the Flames veteran

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers / CalgaryFlames.com

CALGARY, AB -- It wasn't that long ago.

An avid sailor. Brought into shore.

"Seven or eight years, I think," recounts Troy Brouwer.   

A grandfather and grandson reunited, and ultimately separated, by cancer.

"He lived in Mexico," Brouwer explains. "When he retired he wanted to get a sailboat and sail around the world. He did that. He ended up stopping in Mexico and loving it there in Puerto Vallarta.

"I didn't see a ton of him.

"But once he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and he up and stayed with my parents and me. He lived with us for the better part of two years. I really, really got to know him. I miss him every day. What he went through … I was at home the day everything happened.

"I was at his bedside when he ultimately passed. He's somebody that I'd love to have back.

"Unfortunately he passed from cancer."

Gone.

Certainly not forgotten by the first-year member of the Calgary Flames, though. 

And one of the driving memories behind the pink laces Brouwer has been sporting on his skates of late, and will continue to do so as Scotiabank Saddledome host Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night on Friday.

"I've had a couple people ask me towards the beginning of October, 'Why the pink laces?'" Brouwer says.

"I tell them, and nobody makes any comments past that. 

"We had it a couple years ago in Washington where we all wore pink laces for a couple games.

"It's one of those things that everybody is on that side against cancer."

Because everyone has an experience with it.

"For me, it's a way I can show my support in that certain way, and just give everybody support," Brouwer says. "It's a terrible thing that they have to go through and nobody should have to go through it alone.

"The whole NHL, I feel, does a great job. Every team does their night for cancer awareness and Hockey Fights Cancer. It's great to be a part of. I'm glad that the NHL is recognizing it and trying to raise funds for cures.

"It's close to me. I lost my Grandpa to cancer. My best friend's mom is a survivor of breast cancer. My wife's aunt, I'm pretty sure she's in remission right now with it.

"It's just one of the ways I show support for everybody going through the situations they're going through."

Brouwer, with the cause close to his heart, uses the laces as a reminder.

He hopes reintroduce another symbol Friday.

"A bunch of guys in St. Louis, we all got pink sticks for Hockey Fights Cancer night," he recounts. "Everybody is definitely in support of it. I have three left. I think one of them is broken. I had a whole bunch. I guess we didn't order enough. I'm hoping to use them.

"I know last year I was using them and guys were like, 'If you score a whole bunch of goals you'll have to keep using them.'

"I'm not superstitious like that.

"It's the symbolism of them that it is for the month of October for me.

"It makes you realize that even though you're playing hockey there are more important things than hockey.

"People's health is one.

"Family is a huge thing." 

It all starts with the laces, though. 

And another to continue into next month.  

"I usually wear them for all of October," he says. 

"And then grow the mustache for Movember."

With his grandfather in mind.

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