As the calendar turns to November, the National Hockey League and NHL Players Association join to embark on the 21st "Hockey Fights Cancer" campaign, complete with players wearing purple jerseys for warmups, decals on helmets, impressive statistics and participation across all levels of hockey.
The Hockey Fights Cancer campaign was founded because league and team officials, referees, trainers, coaches and players are like the rest of us: Their lives are affected by cancer in some way and they wanted to raise funds for cancer research. All teams will host an in-arena Hockey Fights Cancer awareness night as part of the initiative, which has evolved in purpose over the years while still at its core raising both cancer awareness and funds.
"As the campaign matures, we have focused more on the cancer caregivers," says Kim Davis, the NHL's Executive Vice President for Social Impact, Growth Initiatives and Legislative Affairs. "We have expanded and grown our 'Stanley Cup Hope Lodges' program to assist family members and loved ones to go where patients are being treated."
Donations in support of the Hockey Fights Cancer initiative provides thousands of nights of lodging for patients and their families. The funds also cover transportation, such as rides to and from treatment facilities, plus telephone assistance to perform vital support services for patients and their caregivers. Another part of the program provides pre- and post-treatment support for men battling prostate cancer.
Hockey's campaign partners with the American Cancer Society, which operates 32 Hope Lodge facilities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and the Canadian Cancer Society, operating seven lodges across the country. One feature is the Stanley Cup is traveled to some Hope Lodge locations to brighten a day for patients and caregivers alike. The Cup's road trip this November includes stops in Boston, New York and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
"It's amazing how excited the family members can get when the Stanley Cup arrives," says Davis.
The Hockey Fights Cancer campaign has grown in both fundraising and breadth of participation. Davis says $3.5 million was raised last November, a 36 percent year-over-year increase. Perhaps even more impressively, 219 youth hockey associations across North America staged their own cancer awareness nights as part of the "Hockey Fights Cancer Assists" initiative.
"It builds the notion [among girls and boys] that it is important to give back," says Davis.
Youth hockey teams that host their own Hockey Fights Cancer awareness night in community rinks via the program receive a package that includes official helmet decals, purple tape, "I Fight For" downloadable cards and tips on how to engage their community to raise funds and awareness.
What's more, 22 American Hockey League teams will hold special nights this month, along with 14 East Coast Hockey League clubs for the first time.
Davis says merchandise sales increased 15 percent last November compared to 2017 and that league partner Adidas has created a whole new line of Hockey Fights Cancer apparel, including a new scarf that will be worn by on-air talent at NHL arenas during broadcasts. All merchandise sales goes to support cancer research and care centers.
Since its inception in 1998, the program has generated more than $23.5 million for cancer programs at national and local cancer research institutions, children's hospitals, and player and local charities. Fans can learn more and donate to the cause at HockeyFightsCancer.com.