Hockey Fights Cancer awareness month is more than an NHL initiative. Hockey players of all ages from across North America are doing their part.
At the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation (ESYHF), in which players from the Philadelphia-based organization have worn lavender jerseys and used lavender hockey tape supplied by the NHL, the focus has been on education and information for their Hockey Fights Cancer programs.
"In terms of what we've done this month, really it's been about building awareness," said Jan Koziara, ESYHF executive vice president. "The NHL was great enough to send tape and the Hockey Fights Cancer stickers so we used that with our travel teams to engage them and make them aware of what's going on and have discussions around what more they can do."
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The program serves more than 3,000 children in the Philadelphia region, and fields boys and girls teams for players from the mite level (ages 6-8) through high school. In addition to hockey, ESYHF helps children by offering academic and life skills programs.
Koziara said this season is serving as the start for what can happen with ESYHF and Hockey Fights Cancer initiatives in the future.
"I see this as planting the seed," he said. "This is not something we're just talking about it for the month and it's over. We're saying, here are the kinds of things teams have done and let's start to map out how we can be of service here. And that may not happen this week or this month, but we hope that it'll happen over the course of the season."
That includes fundraising through a newly launched Hockey Fights Cancer community platform, which was unveiled as part of Giving Tuesday.
The page offers the opportunity for community hockey teams and players to create personalized charity challenges, with money going to support Hockey Fights Cancer's charitable partners, American Cancer Society and Canadian Cancer Society.
Koziara said whatever charity work ESYHF, its teams and players do, Hockey Fights Cancer will remain part of their efforts.
"Any time we reach out to our families with these sorts of efforts, they jump on board," he said. "They want to give back. When it comes to cancer, all the stories start coming out. It's sad but it's also really powerful. We find out more about our families and our students and some of the challenges they're facing through this. Those conversations happen not just between the coaches and the families but also between the kids. It ends up being really powerful for them in terms of healing."