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Personal cause

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Captain Henrik Zetterberg will host breast cancer patients and their families Friday night in the Zetterberg Foundation suite. (Photo by Dan Mannes/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT -- When Brendan Smith takes the ice for warm-ups Friday night with his pink-wrapped hockey stick, he'll be thinking of his grandparents.

Friday is the Red Wings' ninth annual Breast Cancer Awareness night and it is personal to Smith.

"Both my grandmother and my grandfather (Joyce and Lester Smith) had breast cancer," Smith said. "My grandmother ended up passing away from it, unfortunately. My grandfather, he found a way to overcome it. So obviously, it hits pretty close to home. Not even just breast cancer, cancer in general. It's a thing that takes away a lot of our loved ones."

Many people are unaware that men can also get breast cancer as Smith's grandfather did, so this is another opportunity for him to help get that message out.

"There is a very small number but there is a number," Smith said. "There's a lot of people that have struggled with either their father or their brother have had breast cancer and you want to create that awareness for everybody. By creating this awareness, you can get some of these young men or women going and getting checked early and see if you can nip it in the bud early."

Early detection can make all the difference.

"I think that's a big reason why my grandfather overcame it is because they caught it so early," Smith said. "If we can create that awareness, maybe we can lower that percentage and I think that's the best thing about creating that with the professional sports because people watch that and that's how you get it across. I think that's the right way to do it."

As Smith and his brothers, Rory and Reilly, get older, it's something that they will have to be very aware of for themselves, just like their father, also named Lester.

"My dad has to get checked," Smith said. "We have to kind of push him a little bit but that's one of those things where you kind of reach 40 or 50, even earlier, you gotta get checked. That's why I've been talking about it, it's good to create that awareness."

The Wings will hold a silent auction, a mystery puck draw and a sale of Wings baseball hats with all proceeds going toward the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute.

Money raised will help uninsured or underinsured women in the metro Detroit area receive breast cancer screening and treatment.

Fans who wear pink to the rink can enter to win a 2015-16 team-signed jersey by picking up a raffle ticket on the concourse behind section 126.

Some of the Wings' significant others will help sell 300 signed hockey pucks for $35 apiece.

Each puck will be enclosed in a black box to hide the autograph. Whichever fan gets the puck signed in gold by goaltender Jimmy Howard will be able to meet Howard after the game.

The pink-wrapped sticks the players use during warm-ups will be signed and then auctioned off during the game.

Other items up for auction include: Smith's tickets for the Nov. 10 game against the Washington Capitals, including a post-game meet and greet; team-signed Howard goalie stick; 2013-14 team-signed Winter Classic replica jersey; Detroit Tigers package with four tickets for a game next season, with a chance to watch batting practice from the field and meet and greet with a Tigers coach or player; framed 2014 Olympic poster signed by all Wings players and staff who participated in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia; plus many Wings experiences.

The Wings will host 40 breast cancer patients and survivors in two suites and captain Henrik Zetterberg and his foundation will host patients and their families in his suite.

Smith will welcome 20 two-time breast cancer patients and survivors in a suite and meet with them after the game.

"I think breast cancer has touched everybody in some way, shape or form," Smith said. "Whether it be a friend or a family member, those are tough times. I think when we can do things that give back to some of these ladies and men that have either overcome it, they can come watch a game and be treated, that they have a second chance, it's amazing.

"I think it's great that not only the NHL, there's football, there's baseball, everybody kind of brings that awareness and I think that's great for everybody because it is a thing that our world goes through every day and we see it. I think the more that we can join hands and help find a cure or find something to help everybody, whatever it is, I think that's the best-case scenario."

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