DETROIT – “This is very special,” Peggy Togal said as she fought back tears Saturday night. “It’s a once in a lifetime experience, it’s so emotional.”
Togal attended Hockey Fights Cancer Night at the Joe Louis Arena as the Red Wings hosted the New York Rangers. She was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2005, and was a guest of Jakub Kindl at the annual cancer night. Kindl gives two tickets to every home Red Wings game to people who have been affected by cancer. The defenseman lost his mother to cancer when he was 14, so it’s an effort that is close to his heart.
“My mom had cancer, she passed away, so that’s why I figured this would be a great opportunity for me to do something like this,” Kindl said. “I have my own program here for the whole year. I got into it more and more and it obviously means a lot. Not just me but all of the other guys are involved as well. It’s a great opportunity to show the fans that it’s not just about hockey.”
The Red Wings hosted Hockey Fights Cancer Night presented by Van Andel Institute’s Purple Community Saturday as part of a month long league wide effort. The event is part of the annual Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Month in October, an initiative founded by the NHL and NHLPA in December 1998 to raise money and awareness for hockey’s most important fight.
As part of the Hockeytown’s Hockey Fights Cancer Night, the Red Wings and Van Andel Institute hosted a “Survivor Suite” with five cancer survivors and their families, Captain Henrik Zetterberg welcomed pediatric cancer patients at Children’s Hospital of Michigan along with their families in the Zetterberg Foundation Suite, and fans were asked to write a name of someone they know who has been impacted by cancer on a sign to hold up during a TV timeout.
Both Togal and her husband wrote “Peggy” on their signs in her honor.
“It’s wonderful,” Togal said of the lavender placed on every seat in The Joe. “I’m very surprised I didn’t that this was happening tonight, it’s great.”
Saturday night was dedicated to those who have been affected by cancer, but the team’s cancer efforts started long before Hockey Fights Cancer Night, and will continue long after. Kindl will host cancer guests throughout the entire season, and even welcomed a young guest at Friday’s practice as an honorary broadcaster.
It was an interview Kindl will never forget.
“It’s great to see the smile on those kids’ faces when they come over here, like the little guy who came here yesterday,” Kindl said. “He was shy but in the end he looked really happy and fired up when he held the mic in his hand and he was asking me questions. It was definitely cool.”
On any given home game, the Joe Louis Arena is draped in red and white. On Saturday, lavender spread across the arena, recognizing those who have lost their battle, those who are still fighting, and those who have survived. It was a special night for the fans and the Red Wings, and Kindl hoped the celebration would help take the cancer guests minds off of their illnesses, if only for one night.
“We’re trying to get them to come over here and completely forget about what they’re going through,” Kindl said. “Make sure they’re enjoying themselves, something different for them. You see them coming over here and then you realize wow these people are going through cancer but they’re so happy just to be around us so that makes it really special, too.”