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The loss of Jaden Schwartz is painful

by Mike G. Morreale /
There isn't one reporter covering the 2011 World Junior Championship not saddened by the news Jaden Schwartz won't be able to join his Canadian National Junior Team mates on the ice for another game of this tournament.

Schwartz will be sidelined with a fractured left ankle.

Let's face it, the Schwartz family has courageously been dealing with heartache for a little over two years now -- when Jaden's sister, Mandi, a center on the Yale women's ice hockey team, was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia while in the first semester of her junior year at Yale University.

When Jaden had learned he had earned a roster spot for the Canadian Junior team on Dec. 15, his immediate response was to call his ailing sister to relay the good news. At least for a little while, things would be OK. His opportunity to wear the Canadian jersey had finally arrived; there would be some sense of excitement and joy. It was short-lived, of course, when the news of Mandi's latest biopsy on Dec. 17 detailed a grim report that she had suffered a relapse for the third time in 2010.

It hit the family hard, too, mother Carol, father Rick, brothers Jaden and Rylan. But Jaden carried on, just as his sister told him to do. He'd play it out and play hard and, really, do it for Mandi.

"The results of the biopsy caught us off guard, because we had hoped to be done with this part of the battle," said Carol Schwartz. "Mandi remains committed to fighting this disease, and we are going to continue doing everything in our power to help her. We are so grateful for all the support we have received throughout this ordeal. We know how many families have been affected by cancer, and we know that the efforts to raise awareness of this cause that have been made on Mandi's behalf are making a difference for her and for so many other patients in need. That gives us the strength to keep going."

So when Jaden, currently a freshman at Colorado College, hopped on the riser to address the media on Thursday morning with the aid of crutches and a walking cast over his left ankle, it seemed so unfair. Still, despite the disappointment, you got the feeling Schwartz had his priorities in order.

"There's people in the world going through worse things than I am," he told Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post. "So I'll keep that in the back of my mind."

Schwartz, who had been playing key minutes alongside center Brayden Schenn and Louis Leblanc, admitted he did contact his parents but hadn't yet called his sister.

"I know they're going to update Mandi," Schwartz said. "I'll give her a call tonight, but I'm sure she knows already."

According to Hockey Canada, Schwartz sustained his injury in a 7-2 win over the Czech Republic on Tuesday. The 18-year-old prospect of the St. Louis Blues had 1 goal and 2 assists in two games for Canada.

"I wanted to be here more than anything and my family wanted me here and especially my sister," Schwartz said. "It was a dream come true to make this team and to not be able to play in it is tough."

Schwartz said he received the bad news Thursday morning after undergoing an MRI on Wednesday.

"The (doctor) took me over there, and (Thursday) morning, told me the news," Schwartz said. "And, obviously, when I found out, I was very, very disappointed. Obviously, I was really looking forward to playing in this tournament, and playing for Canada."

Schwartz, incidentally, was the only player not participating in Canada's practice on Thursday. Zack Kassian, who will sit out the second of a two-game suspension on Friday against Sweden, Calvin de Haan (lower body) and Cody Eakin (undisclosed) all took part in the skate at Buffalo State College.

It's expected that Eakin and de Haan will be in the lineup on Friday while goalie Olivier Roy will make his third start in the tournament for Canada.

"It's really unfortunate timing," Schwartz said. "Sitting here, feeling sorry for myself isn't going to do anyone any good. I'm going to be here to support the guys as much as I can, and I'll be cheering them on every game."

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