WINNIPEG - An important night on the National Hockey League schedule hits a little closer to home this season for Josh Morrissey.
Tonight's Hockey Fights Cancer game between the Winnipeg Jets and Pittsburgh Penguins has been circled on his calendar, and the calendars of his family members, for a while.
Josh's father, Tom, lost his year-long battle with cancer on August 8, 2021.
He's always in Josh's thoughts, but tonight even more so.
"It was a tough year, and certainly summer, for us, losing our dad. But tonight means a lot for us," Morrissey said. "It's a lot emotions. There's happy thoughts, obviously some sad as well. It's a great initiative by the NHL, and certainly going to be playing for him tonight. It's a special night for our family."
The Jets have been wearing "TM" helmet decals all season in honour of Morrissey's father, but the young defenceman has come up with another way to do so - and help the league's Hockey Fights Cancer initiative at the same time.
Tonight, Morrissey will wear a purple blazer to honour his dad, and all those who have fought and those who are currently fighting cancer.
The team will autograph the lining of the blazer and it will be auctioned off on the NHL auction site, with proceeds going to the Canadian Cancer Society.
"I just think it'll be special for us for me to wear it, and he'd be proud," said Josh.
After all, it was Tom who not only helped shape Josh's game through many years at the D-Rules camps - which Tom ran - but also his style.
"Growing up, when we had to get our first dress shirts, ties, whatever, for hockey, he was always the one kind of taking care of us,' Josh said. "It was always important to him, he was always dressed sharp. I just figured it would be a nice tribute to him to get a jacket done up for the night."
Jets head coach Paul Maurice met Tom during one of the guest trips the Jets had put together in previous seasons.
"(He was) always so positive and so upbeat about the Jets and how his son was handled," Maurice said. "Really positive feedback with him and I think that attitude you see in Josh. He's always a really upbeat guy coming to work, excited to work. He's a good man."
Throughout the season, the Jets coaching staff has been wearing TK decals on their team-issued gear. This is in support of Tina Kompon, the wife of associate coach Jamie Kompon, who is currently battling cancer.
"It's a significant battle they've been fighting for a long time. It's been years now," Maurice said. "You don't get a chance to know Tina and how she's involved, like Christmas, the baking she does. We roll into Anaheim, everybody puts on 10 pounds. It's just how she's able to do that."
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That trip to Anaheim earlier in the season was the first time Jamie was able to be behind the bench with the group. Maurice said earlier in the season that Jamie is staying in California with Tina, close to doctors and specialists as the fight against Tina's cancer continues.
Even from afar - and two hours behind the Central Time Zone, living on the west coast - Jamie keeps in touch.
"There's not a lot of days where you have an excuse to get out of bed late because he isn't," Maurice said. "You need to get your but out of bed because Jamie has already sent you 10 things that you got to look at and his five texts saying, 'Have you seen it yet? Have you watched the video yet?' Oh, man."
He says that's just the kind of people the Kompons are, and always have been.
"It's something that every single person in the room, every player, trainer, coach, manager is attached to, every one of you in the room," Maurice said. "In a difficult situation, it's a great connector for all of us and probably everybody sitting in that building tonight."
Each year, on Hockey Fights Cancer night as part of the pre-game ceremony, the Jets bring out children who are currently in a battle themselves, but are healthy enough to be at Canada Life Centre.
It's emotional, it's inspiring, and it's a reminder of how important these types of campaigns are.
"This is going to be the toughest game of the year because there's probably going to be some kids come out on the ice tonight and I'm going to be staring at my feet, for the most part, trying to get through it like everybody else," said Maurice. "It's tough, and then you also get inspired at the same time."