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Hockey Fights Cancer

Cup winner DiPenta leading fight against blood cancer

by Mike G. Morreale @MikeMorrealeNHL / NHL.com

Joe DiPenta accomplished the ultimate goal of his NHL career in 2007 when he won the Stanley Cup as a member of the Anaheim Ducks.

He has since taken on an even greater objective in the fight against cancer as executive director of the Atlantic Canada chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) of Canada.

"When I lifted that Cup above my head, those were the best six seconds of my life and the pinnacle of my career because it was the exclamation point for all the hard work and sacrifices that went into having that moment," DiPenta said. "I believe one day we'll have a similar feeling in discovering a cure for blood cancer.

"I'm already seeing it and the feeling is right up there with that feeling I had winning the Cup. It's a lofty goal, it's a dream and it's something I'm striving towards."

As executive director, a position he's held since August 2013, Dipenta looks to help improve the lives for blood cancer patients not only in Atlantic Canada but across the country. His initial responsibility was to put senior volunteers in place that had connections in the corporate community in creating new fundraising efforts. His goals have since expanded.

The LLS has invested millions in research specifically targeting blood cancers.

"As an athlete, I take the same mental approach in the fight against cancer as I did as a hockey player," DiPenta said. "I never thought winning a Cup was a possibility. But it happened and I have similar aspirations to help find a cure for blood cancer."

DiPenta visits the adults and children's hospitals in Halifax once a month to help brighten the lives of those patients in treatment.

"I'm trying to utilize my background as much as possible to help the patients," DiPenta said. "I always bring my Stanley Cup ring and tell the stories that go into the customization of it. My hope is that it distracts them from the monotony of being in the hospital for weeks on end. It's a rewarding thing for me. The kids are such fighters; it's so inspiring and really touches your heart."

DiPenta, 36, said the biggest challenge faced in the fight against cancer is funding.

"If we have more money, we're going to see an exponential amount of treatments and cures that will happen over the next 10-20 years," he said. "It's an exciting time because there's just so much opportunity right now and people in the field are creating new treatments each year that are really mind-blowing. They're saying there are so many more treatments in the works that have been funded in the past 5-10 years that are just now going mainstream.

"It's an exciting time to be in the field."

DiPenta hosts Stanley Cup hockey camps for children ages 6-10 in Cole Harbour that helps raise close to $15,000 each year for LLS, and he also holds his annual Light The Night Walk in honor of former NHL player Shawn Burr, who passed away in August 2013 at the age of 47.

DiPenta spent three full seasons in the NHL with the Ducks and also played three games with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2002-03. He's part of a select group of players to win the Stanley Cup and the Calder Cup, the championship for the American Hockey League, with the Chicago Wolves in 2001-02.

His movement in the battle against cancer hit close to home seven years ago.

In 2009, DiPenta's father-in-law was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, but he's been in remission since 2011. In 2013, his grandmother was diagnosed with leukemia.

"Grandma is still going strong and she's 86-years-old," DiPenta said.

There's no doubt that advancements made through past research funding of the LLS played a big part in their positive prognosis.

To learn more about the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, please visit: www.lls.org.

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