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TAIT: Dropping the Gloves

Cam Tait writes about Hockey Fights Cancer Night

by Cam Tait /

In the game of hockey, gloves are essential. They protect players' hands against blazing pucks, slamming into boards at high speeds, skate blades in uncontrolled skirmishes and other things. Gloves also come into the spotlight when they are dropped and players begin to fight - one of hockey's mainstays.

On their way to the penalty box, players scoop up their gloves. Hockey fights on the ice never last long, thankfully.

Video: COMMUNITY | Hockey Fights Cancer Night

But there are other fights that last much longer. What could be called downright wars people encounter with cancer that last years, seeming to be endless. A pair of hockey gloves might not be as fitting for them.
A pair of warm, fuzzy mitts might fit the bill more.

And that's what was available Friday, November 3 at the Edmonton Oilers annual Hockey Fights Cancer night as they took on the New Jersey Devils at Rogers Place. Even before the puck was dropped, the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation (EOCF) and Oilers Ladies were set up around the building selling limited-edition Oilers mittens with net proceeds going to the BrainWorks program at the Kids With Cancer Society and EOCF. Oilers fans, again, showed their generosity and purchased every last pair of mittens.

And that's good news for the Kids With Cancer Society, an agency that compassionately works with children diagnosed with cancer who live in Northern Alberta. The Kids With Cancer Society is a pillar for kids and their families on their cancer journey, from the time they get the news of their diagnosis, through treatment, support, clinical programs and research. The BrainWorks program is a unique and needed service. BrainWorks is an educational support program for families that provides clinical and practical support for kids and families as they navigate cancer treatment or cope with cognitive late effects. It also helps make real-world links in terms of supporting kids with their education so they can be successful through treatment and beyond. The program has been used approximately 2,700 times in two years, thanks to the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation's support.

There are, of course, heroes that emerge from such programs: two of them were at centre ice before Friday's opening faceoff. Reid Huscroft and Chantal Kerr were both diagnosed with cancer in their younger years, an odd statement considering they are now 5 and 7 respectively. They met their hero, Connor McDavid, as he faced off against a fellow cancer fighter, Brian Boyle of the New Jersey Devils. Boyle was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a type of bone-marrow cancer, during training camp and suited up for his second game of the season that evening since the diagnosis. Reid and Chantal, along with Boyle, were saluted by the Rogers Place crowd for being, alas, true champions.

A video presentation featured Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) staff and Oilers players indicating who they fight for.

The crowd hushed when OEG Vice Chair Kevin Lowe flashed on screen. He spoke of how he fights for his long-time friend and fellow Oilers Alumni Dave Semenko, who lost his fight with cancer this past summer. Dave was rugged, rough and was known to drop his gloves to fight for his teammates.

We all have a hand in battling cancer - whether we're personally fighting the disease ourselves or joining the journey of a family member or friend. As the winter gusts blow in it's important we keep our hands warm since we'll be sharing our individual touch with people with cancer.

Those Oilers mittens. They fit like gloves, don't they?

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