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Hockey Fights Cancer

Petry inspired by loss of grandfather to lead Canadiens' Bowvember effort

Defenseman, teammates make game against Hurricanes black-tie affair for prostate cancer awareness

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

MONTREAL -- A bow tie, Jeff Petry admits with a chuckle, is a mystery.

The Montreal Canadiens defenseman has worn one for weddings a handful of times and says the only way he'd be able to tie his own would be by taking lessons online.

But Petry, his teammates, Canadiens management and the coaching staff will look snappy and very much in bow-tie uniform on Tuesday. All will arrive at Bell Centre before their game against the Carolina Hurricanes (7:30 p.m. ET; TSN2, RDS, FS-CR, NHL.TV) wearing a pre-tied black bow - a papillon, or butterfly, as the tie is known in French - - for a very good cause.

Petry is the Canadiens' ambassador for Hockey Fights Cancer. The Bowvember initiative is one of a number the Canadiens are undertaking during Movember, which sees players and team management this month grow moustaches in an annual fund-raising campaign.

The Movember campaign promotes men's health while raising awareness and funds for research into prostate and testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention. This is the fifth edition of Bowvember, organized by Procure to benefit prostate cancer support and research in Quebec.

It's a cause close to Petry, who in 2014 lost a grandfather to the disease. He also lost a grandmother to cancer two years ago, so he says he's inspired and motivated to do whatever he can on behalf of Hockey Fights Cancer.

"My dad's father had prostate cancer and it spread pretty rapidly throughout his body," said Petry, the 30-year-old native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, who also served as the Canadiens' ambassador last year. "My grandparents lived out in California but they always travelled to see us in hockey and baseball tournaments. Whenever my parents were away, they'd be the ones to come to Michigan to take care of my brother and me."

His grandmother on his mother's side had cancer for a number of years before it returned aggressively, taking her in 2016.

Petry had been involved with cancer campaigns while he played for the Edmonton Oilers between 2010-14. Two seasons ago, he and Canadiens alumnus Steve Begin led the Canadiens' Bowvember effort. Last year he took a more personal step: Petry convinced six teammates to join his shaved-heads challenge, which raised $33,000 to benefit Leucan, a cancer-support group for young Quebec patients and their families.

Petry had gone the shaved-head route with the Oilers, and last year he pitched the idea to Genevieve Paquette, the Canadiens vice president of community engagement and general manager of the team's Children's Foundation.

"Gen was all for it," said Petry. "The biggest thing for me was to convince a few teammates. I was expecting one or two, but we wound up with seven in all. Everyone realized it was a small sacrifice for us to make for a better cause and to help families in need.

"This is something I'm definitely willing to participate in," he said of Hockey Fights Cancer. "It was a no-brainer to get involved after my grandparents passed away. Cancer is something that has touched my life."

The Petry-led Bowvember event on Tuesday bookends the Leucan game hosted by the Canadiens on Nov. 3. That night, during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Canadiens played host at Bell Centre to more than 50 cancer-touched children and their families.

A group of Leucan children accompanied Canadiens players, hand in hand, onto the ice for the national anthems and a puck-drop ceremony, they and others then watching the game from luxury suites provided by the team. Canadiens coaches and management wore lavender Hockey Fights Cancer ties, and lavender jerseys worn during warmup by players, along with their dressing-room nameplates, were auctioned to benefit Leucan, raising about $15,000.

"You see these Leucan kids coming out on the ice at such a young age, battling a horrible disease," Petry said. "I think that evening helps them, lets them feel special to be honored. For the players, it shows us just how truly blessed we are that we can be role models and help these kids even for a short time, to help take their minds off everything that's going on in their lives.

"With two kids myself, I can't imagine what not only the kids are going through, but their families too. it's a special night that everyone with the team is proud to be a part of to help these families in any way that we can."

Petry and his wife, Julie, have two sons -- Boyd, 3, and Barrett, 18 months. He recalls the anxiety of Boyd's 11-day-premature birth, which confined the infant to an incubator for three days as he battled fluid in his lungs.

"Expectant parents might say, 'I want a boy,' or 'I want a girl,' but deep down, everyone just wants a healthy child," he said. "That's the most important thing. I didn't want to leave Boyd's side when he was born. I can only imagine a parent whose child has cancer."

When the Canadiens knocked on Petry's door again this season, he couldn't answer quickly enough to accept the ambassador's role. If the shaved-head challenge has been replaced by bow ties this month, he said he expects the razors will be fired up again in the future.

On Tuesday, with a full head of hair, Petry and his teammates will leave their conventional ties in the closet, slipping black bows under their collars.

Petry is starting to consider the real thing.

"The more I talk about this," he said with a laugh, "the more I think I might have to buy a real bow tie, log onto YouTube for awhile and get some practice."

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