CHICAGO -- Colin Gooley was training with the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team in Las Vegas in October when a childhood friend paid a visit.
That friend was Vegas Golden Knights forward Alex Tuch.
"He was still around for the weekend, so that was cool for the whole team," said Gooley, a defenseman with the Buffalo Sabres at the USA Hockey Sled Classic presented by the NHL at MB Ice Arena this week. "I introduced him to everybody, so that was pretty cool. He showed us the locker room and the training center, and we got to hang out with him a little bit."
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Gooley, 25, was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, when he was 7 years old and had his left leg amputated below the knee. When he was in sixth grade, his family moved next door to Tuch in Baldwinsville, New York, about 20 minutes northwest of Syracuse.
Gooley, who has maintained good mobility - he wears a prosthetic on his left leg - was always part of the street hockey games in front of his and Tuch's homes.
"He had a whole setup on his garage where he had a giant tarp," said Gooley, who started playing sled hockey when he was 17. "Whether it was just shooting pucks up against his garage, breaking windows and lamps, we would always rally the troops around and play with those mini knee hockey nets and play street hockey with them at least a few times a week."
Gooley also remembers going long stretches without seeing his neighbor.
"Whenever we weren't playing, whenever he wasn't in school, he was traveling for hockey," Gooley said. "He's one of the most dedicated players I think is out there right now."
Now, Gooley and Tuch see each other over the holidays and at various events, including the Alex Tuch 3-on-3 Pro Hockey Game on Aug. 15 in Cicero, New York. The event raised more than $50,000 to support the mission of the Maureen's Hope Foundation, which offers practical support and assistance to people facing a cancer diagnosis or another life-altering disease.
"He set all that up and had me go say a couple of words on how important those types of fundraisers are," Gooley said. "I got to meet a kid who has the same type of cancer that I have now. He was 13. I always chat with some of the younger guys who have had similar experiences."
While Gooley and Tuch have shared a lot of hockey experiences together, as far as Gooley knows, Tuch still hasn't tried playing it in a sled.
"I got his younger brother, Luke, out. He used to help me train now and then," Gooley said. "But I don't think I ever got Alex into a sled. I'm going to have to have him try it."