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'Canes, Flames kick off cancer awareness initiative

by John McGourty
Julie Walker, wife of Carolina Hurricanes forward Scott Walker, Wendy Pleau, wife of St. Louis Blues Senior Vice President and General Manager Larry Pleau, and Chicago Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman, all battling cancer, our hearts, minds, hopes and prayers are with you.

Your fight is our fight, so this month every NHL team will host a Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night, starting Friday with special fundraising efforts at games hosted by the Hurricanes and the Calgary Flames. The Flames will once again host a 50-50 raffle. Last year's raffle generated $14,000 for Hockey Fights Cancer.

Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Nights will continue Saturday in games hosted by the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks and Toronto Maple Leafs.

All NHL players will wear a Hockey Fights Cancer decal on their helmet during all regular-season games in October. Lavender, which represents awareness for all cancers, is the designated color for this year’s initiative.

There isn't an NHL team that hasn't suffered the loss of a beloved family member, player, executive, support-staff member, or alumni, to cancer. Current NHL players Saku Koivu, Jason Blake and Phil Kessel all have battled cancer. Retired players Mario Lemieux and John Cullen were stricken during their playing days.

The event Friday is particularly poignant for the Flames, who lost founding co-owner Daryl K. "Doc" Seaman to cancer in January.

Hockey Fights Cancer was established as a way for the hockey community to come together to fight cancer and is a joint charitable initiative founded in December 1998 by the NHL and the National Hockey League Players' Association. It is supported by NHL member clubs, NHL alumni, the NHL Officials' Association, professional-hockey athletic trainers and equipment managers, corporate-marketing partners, broadcast partners and fans throughout North America.

Hockey Fights Cancer's goal is to raise money and awareness for national and local organizations involved in cancer care and research. To date, HFC has raised more than $10.5 million.

Hockey Fights Cancer is a component of The Biggest Assist Happens Off The Ice, the NHL’s and NHLPA's social-responsibility program that builds on hockey’s long-standing tradition of addressing important social issues in North America and around the world.

The Hurricanes announced last May, during their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Bruins, that Julie Walker was being treated for cervical cancer. Despite playing with that concern, Scott Walker was able to play an important role for his team, scoring the winning goal in overtime of Game 7 to send the Hurricanes to the conference final.

"Being a tough player and stuff like that, and people talk about me like that, this is one that it doesn't matter how tough you are," Walker told the Raleigh News Observer back in May. "It's hard to handle."

Scott and Julie Walker and their children, Cooper and Anna, will perform "Siren Sounder" duties to kick off Hockey Fights Cancer Night. Uterine cancer survivor Brenda Leek will sing the national anthem and lymphoma survivor and Raleigh Youth Hockey Association member Connor Johnson will be the Time Warner Cable "Starter of the Game."

During the game, Hurricanes' head athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach Peter Friesen will present a check from the Friesen 5k to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Hurricanes center Eric Staal will host children cancer patients from the UNC Cancer Center in his suite as a part of his charitable initiative, "Eric’s Entourage." Along with Friesen’s and Staal's individual efforts, the Hurricanes will present 10 agencies with special Hockey Fights Cancer gifts, and young adults from St. Baldrick’s Foundation will ride the Olympia ice resurfacers.

Ten cancer organizations will have tables throughout the RBC Center, and Rex Hospital’s Mobile Mammography unit will be located on the south side of the arena.

The New York Islanders will host a benefit for a different cancer organization at all seven homes games this month, in coordination with OSI Pharmaceuticals and the Advanced Radiation Centers of New York. Follow the Islanders' Web site ( throughout the month for the inspiring stories of their fans who have battled or are battling cancer, like this one about Long Island high-school hockey coach, Matt Coffey.

At each Islanders' game night during October there will be two honorary "Stick Kids" from the following organizations: Make-A-Wish Foundation, Schneider Children’s Hospital, Stony Brook University Hospital, Winthrop University Hospital Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital and Sunrise Day Camp.

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