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Hockey Fights Cancer

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings and Justin Abdelkader will use lavender tape on their hockey sticks during pregame warm-ups Friday at Joe Louis Arena. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT -- When cancer strikes, it can often help to have a distraction.

Red Wings defenseman Jakub Kindl discovered that the hard way.

When Kindl was young, his mother, Jana, found out she had kidney cancer.

"It's not easy," Kindl said. "I was only 14 years old. On the other hand, I had the hockey so that kept me occupied even when our family was going through the tough time. Thank God I had the hockey, otherwise it would have been even more tougher on me."

Kindl saw how valiantly his mother fought the disease.

"She was battling through it for a while," Kindl said. "She was a very strong woman. It just got to the point where it all spread all over her body."

Now Kindl tries to help others battling cancer by giving them a break from the disease by hosting a cancer patient every home game.

"Whether they're going through therapy, I try to have them come down here for a game, give them a hat or a toque or any kind of souvenirs to make their life a little more enjoyable and try to put on a good show for them as well," Kindl said. "Of course it means a lot to me to try to put a smile on their face for a couple hours."

Cancer has also hit close to home for Rachel Howard, the wife of Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard.

"It's been a little bit harder with her aunt having breast cancer and her uncle now having a tumor, well, he had a tumor in his head and in his lungs," Howard said. "I can definitely relate for anyone that has it going through their family. It's definitely tough. It's tough because you feel so bad for the person that's going through it."

The NHL and NHLPA have held their Hockey Fights Cancer initiative since 1998 to raise money and awareness.

Kindl, Howard and their Wings teammates will take part in their annual Hockey Fights Cancer Night on Friday when they host the Ottawa Senators.

Fans are encouraged to wear purple to support cancer awareness and to take part in several of the activities.

In memory of former Wing Shawn Burr, the Wings will have a bone marrow registration drive in partnership with Delete Blood Cancer DKMS. With a simple swab of the inside of their cheeks, fans can join the Be The Match Registry.

Fans can bid on lavender-taped hockey sticks that the Wings will use during pre-game warmups with proceeds going to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network of Detroit. The auction will run on Auctions.NHL.com from Monday, Nov. 2 through Thursday, Nov. 12.

Fans can also buy exclusive Red Wings Hockey Fights Cancer merchandise at the game or at Hockeytown Authentics in Troy or online at http://shop.nhl.com/Detroit_Red_Wings_Hockey_Fights_Cancer with a portion of proceeds going to Hockey Fights Cancer.

Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will host pediatric cancer patients and their families in the Zetterberg Foundation suite.

The Wings will use their suite to welcome patients and survivors of 20 different types of cancer.

The Budd Lynch Veterans suite will host military members who are cancer patients and survivors.

Fans are also encouraged to visit HockeyFightsCancer.com to download an "I Fight For" sign, fill it out and post it using the hashtag #HockeyFightsCancer.

All NHL teams are holding their own events for Hockey Fights Cancer, which has raised more than $15 million for national and local organizations involved in cancer care and research.

"What you see across the league throughout the NHL, it's tremendous to see," Howard said. "You also see it in other leagues, which is awesome because it affects so many people."

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