Skip to Main Content
Hockey Fights Cancer

Ovechkin, Capitals to make cancer survivor's wish come true

Forward will meet inspirational 13-year-old after game at Maple Leafs on Saturday

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Alex Luey had been through a lot more than most 13-year-olds and handled it with a maturity well beyond his age.

So no one could blame the Niagara Falls, Ontario, native for shedding a few tears when he heard his greatest wish is going to come true. 

When Sportsnet held its "Hometown Hockey" telecast in Niagara Falls on Oct. 8, hosts Ron MacLean and Tara Slone surprised Alex with a video message from his favorite NHL player, Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin.

"Hi, Alex. It's your buddy Ovi," Ovechkin said in the video. "I hear you're cancer-free. You're coming to the game in Toronto in November. I can't wait to meet you, so I'll see you there soon."

Alex, who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a cancer of the bone, in his right leg last year, had some trouble hearing over the crowd, but began to cry after Slone explained that he's going to meet Ovechkin when the Capitals play the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, NBCSWA+, NHL.TV).

Alex said he was a little overwhelmed to learn he is going to meet Ovechkin.

Having seen the video of Alex's reaction, Ovechkin understood where those tears came from.

Watch: Youtube Video

"It's an emotional moment," Ovechkin said. "But I'm going to try to do the best I can and this organization can and do what every hockey player can to give [him] happiness and a smile."

Alex's visit with Ovechkin will coincide with the Maple Leafs' Hockey Fights Cancer Night. The Capitals plan to have Alex watch warmups from their bench and then, along with his family, meet Ovechkin after the game.

Ovechkin, 32, believes he has a big responsibility to help others and has been active in charity work, particularly causes involving children, in the Washington area throughout his 13 seasons with the Capitals.

"We got lucky. We play in the NHL," Ovechkin said. "We know some kids look at us like idols and we have to respect that and we have to give back." 

Alex appreciates that Ovechkin will take some time during a busy game night to meet him.

"He's my favorite player and for me to meet him, that's incredible," Alex said.

A year ago, Alex was dealing with the reality that he had cancer and hoping he'd be able to play hockey again. 

Initially, he thought he only had a sore leg. On Sept. 16, 2016, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, the same cancer that Terry Fox died from.

Alex was already very familiar with Fox, who, after having his right leg amputated, attempted to run across Canada in 1980 to raise awareness and money for cancer research. Alex had participated in annual Terry Fox Runs at school and, by coincidence, Fox's brother, Fred Fox, did a presentation at Alex's school a week before he was diagnosed.

Facing the possible loss of his leg, Alex had multiple options, including full amputation and limb salvage surgery, which replaces the bone with artificial bone. Because it would give him the most mobility, Alex chose rotationplasty, a procedure in which the middle section of the leg, including the knee, is removed and the lower part of the leg reattached but rotated 180 degrees, leaving the ankle to function as a knee attached to a fitted prosthesis.

"I love sports, so as soon as I heard I could [play] sports with the surgery I picked it immediately," said Alex, who had surgery Dec. 13.

After resuming chemotherapy from January to May (he had begun the treatments shortly after being diagnosed), Alex was declared cancer-free. He received his prosthesis in the first week of June and began to learn how to walk again.
 
In mid-September, almost a year after he was diagnosed, he started skating again.

"I'd say skating came easier than walking maybe because you don't think about it as much and it's an easier motion to do than walking," Alex said. 

While getting used to skating again, Alex has remained involved with his youth hockey program, the Niagara Falls Flyers, helping to manage one of the younger teams. He also has been learning to play sled hockey.

Alex has followed Fox's example by getting involved in charity. He organized a fundraising campaign in his neighborhood over the summer and raised $625 that was donated to Ronald McDonald House, which provides financial aid to families with sick children so they can get housing near a hospitalized child. He also intends to get involved with Project SHARE, which provides emergency food to families in need.

"Alex and I have had the conversation that now that we're through the worst, it's time to give back," said Alex's mother, Cat. "It's time for us to be those people who step forward and help others when they need it. It's an eye opener."

Even in that tear-filled moment after he was told about his date with Ovechkin, Alex was thinking of others. He mentioned during the Sportsnet telecast that his aunt, Beth Orr, who has chronic lymphocytic leukemia, was unable to be there that night.

"Recently, my Aunt Beth got diagnosed and started [chemotherapy] treatments," Alex said. "And I know how that feels."

Orr was among the many who were there for Alex when he was going through his treatments.  

Ovechkin showed his support during Hockey Fights Cancer Month last year by hanging a "I fight for Alex Luey" sign in his locker. Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby sent him an autographed stick.

"It's like everyone has my back," Alex said. "Everyone's there for me."

Meeting Ovechkin will be another reminder of that.

"This has been his greatest wish," Cat Luey said. "All along he's been saying, 'I want to meet the Capitals. I want to meet Alex Ovechkin.' So you could imagine what it would be like to be handed the one thing that if you could make a wish, this is what it is. So he's super excited."

View More

The NHL has updated its Privacy Policy effective January 16, 2020. We encourage you to review it carefully.

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.