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Hockey Fights Cancer

Red Wings fan, 11, 'superstar' on Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night

Boy with Ewing's sarcoma drops puck, meets players before game

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

DETROIT -- The boy stood at the edge of the ice, wearing a lavender Detroit Red Wings jersey for Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night at Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday. The Red Wings sat on their bench to his left. His mother, brother and sister stood behind him in the tunnel.

Then Noah Gochanour, 11, of Sterling Heights, Michigan, was introduced to the crowd. He walked out onto the red carpet, alone under the spotlight, his image on the gigantic video screens above, the fans cheering.

He posed for a picture and dropped the puck for the ceremonial face-off before the Red Wings' game against the Los Angeles Kings. Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg, his favorite player, corralled the puck, scooped it up and gave it to him.

 

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"Amazing," he said. "I was just …"

He paused, speechless.

"I don't know," he said.

"Nervous?" his mother asked.

"Yeah," he said. "Super nervous."

Asked what he would do with the puck, he was speechless again.

"Save it forever," his mother said.

Video: LAK@DET: Noah Gochanour drops puck on HFC night

When Noah was 7, he felt pain in his left shoulder. His mother, Sara, didn't think much of it at first. He was a boy, right? He liked to wrestle. He jumped off couches. Boys get bumps and bruises.

She took him to the pediatrician, and the doctors didn't think much of it at first, either. They thought he might have a broken collarbone. But they saw something on an X-ray and were unsure what it was, so they sent him for an MRI.

Noah celebrated his eighth birthday.

Two days later, doctors diagnosed Ewing's sarcoma, a rare cancer. He had a tumor on his left shoulder blade. Doctors removed the tumor and the shoulder blade, leaving his arm attached to his collarbone.

Doctors declared Noah cancer-free in June 2015. But it came back in September 2015 and spread to his lungs. He was given a 7 percent chance of surviving five years.

After more treatment, doctors were optimistic they had the cancer under control. But it came back again in September 2016. Most recently, doctors found 13 nodules, or tumors, in his lungs.

"He has been continuously battling for 3 1/2 years, with a few months' break in between," his mother said. "He is out of treatment options. So right now, we're just enjoying life and having fun and hoping something comes up in the meantime."

The American Cancer Society connected Noah with the Red Wings, and there he was at the morning skate Tuesday, sitting in the first row with his family. Coaches and players brought him onto the ice to practice the puck drop, then brought him over to the bench.

"You coming into the room with us?" defenseman Trevor Daley asked. "Coming to hang out?"

Noah smiled and nodded.

Daley lost his mother, Trudy, to cancer June 21, 2016, nine days after she watched him raise the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Daley took Noah into the dressing room and let him lead the way. Noah looked around and met players, including Zetterberg, who gave him a stick.

"It's a disease that affects us so much," Daley said. "There's not a person you've met it hasn't affected in some sort of way. It's an awful disease. Anytime you can put a smile on somebody's face, especially a little kid, it's the right thing to do."

Noah watched warmup from the tunnel and bumped fists with the players as they came off the ice in lavender warmup jerseys with lavender-taped sticks, which will be auctioned off to benefit the American Cancer Society.

In the hallway outside the dressing room, he practiced pronouncing the players' names.

"Do you feel like a superstar?" his mother asked.

"A little," he said sheepishly.

Assistant Pat Ferschweiler pulled Noah aside for one last tutorial, then brought him into the room to read the starting lineup to the Red Wings. Noah's mother, his brother, Nathan, 6, and his sister, Lillyan, 3, got to come in to watch.

"It means everything to me," his mother said. "It gives us some more memories and something to look back on and something to incorporate with his brother and sister too. This is something they'll never forget."

There were a few minutes before the players emerged from the room and it was time to drop the puck. Noah's mother, brother and sister stood in the hallway waiting. Noah had vanished. Asked where Noah was, Sara said he had gone to look at the ice.

Amid the hubbub, Noah stood quietly by the empty bench and empty rink, watching the pregame show, the place his.

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