Boston Bruins forward Noel Acciari has gotten a chance to live his dream of playing in the NHL. He hasn't forgotten one of his best friends who unfortunately won't get that chance.
Acciari, 25, and childhood friend Drew Brown attended prep school together before rooming and playing hockey at Providence College. Brown sustained a leg injury during their junior year in 2014, and an MRI revealed he had a tumor. Brown was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
Though his friend was unable to continue playing hockey, Acciari captained Providence to the 2015 NCAA championship
"When we won the national championship, that whole year I felt was fueled for Drew," Acciari said. "I felt that the team, coaching staff, everyone at Providence College backed Drew from when he found out to right now."
Brown, 25, had chemotherapy to remove the tumor and went back to Providence to finish college as an assistant student coach in 2014-15. He was in attendance and cheered on the Friars during the Frozen Four at TD Garden, where Acciari now plays his home games with the Bruins. Providence defeated Nebraska-Omaha 4-1 in the semifinals and Boston University 4-3 in the championship game for the title.
"It was just special that we won that year he was not with us, and it was an unbelievable feeling to have him back when we made the Frozen Four, to come out and be with the team for two games there," Acciari said. "To be able to hoist that trophy up at the end of that was a special feeling, just to have him out there to know that he was fighting and we were fighting with him."
Brown graduated in 2016; however, the cancer returned soon after, spreading to his lungs. His health has taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks.
"He's beaten it once and it came back," Acciari said. "He's a fighter and one of my best friends, and I want the best for him."
With November being Hockey Fights Cancer month in the NHL, Acciari has used social media to spread the word about his friend, including a GoFundMe page Brown's family created to raise money for his medical expenses. Dropping the Mitts for Drew Brown was created on Nov. 5, and has raised more than $48,000 toward a goal of $60,000.
"Everything that's happened so far has kind of taken not the right turn and things have gotten scary for the time being. I think everyone right now that has donated has been very fortunate that we could get the word out and raise about $42,000 in three days," Acciari said. "It's unbelievable the support that he has."
Providence will host "I fight for Drew Brown Night" against UMass at Schneider Arena on Saturday and will raise money for Brown.
Acciari said he texts Brown, who needs 24-hour care, every day.
"I know he reads them, but he might not be able to text back," Acciari said. "I just want to make it known that he's got a bunch of people fighting for him, and a lot of people that love him and want the best for him."