Hockey games are always about the pursuit of victory, but sometimes it's about so much more than only winning on the ice. On Hockey Fights Cancer Night, victories in the battle with the disease are often celebrated before the game even starts, which is what makes it such a memorable evening in the arena every year.
Two years ago, Buffalo sports fans had a big reason to celebrate when they saw two of our beloved sports figures - Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and Sabres play-by-play announcer Rick Jeanneret - well enough to appear on the ice and drop the puck together in a ceremonial faceoff. That night, they each announced that they were cancer free.
Last year, Jack Eichel held the hand of 6-year-old Matthew Eggers of Grand Island, as he led a group of children from Carly's Club at Roswell Park Cancer Institute out for the puck drop. The little boy was receiving chemotherapy when Eichel visited the hospital on his first official tour of Buffalo.
The two hit it off then when Matthew suggested to Jack that he should consider wearing number 100 for the Sabres. It's clear that standing on the ice together last year was an emotional moment for them both.
This year's pregame ceremony - which will be held on Thursday prior to the Sabres game against Minnesota - will honor the milestones that patients reach throughout their journeys at Roswell Park. When they complete treatment or receive good news from their doctors, patients celebrate by ringing the "victory bell" in the lobby of the hospital. This will be the inspiration for our pregame ceremony Thursday night.
We invite you to cheer on those whose lives who have been touched by cancer by waving a purple "I'm Fighting For" rally towel, which will be passed out by Roswell Park volunteers at tables located throughout all concourses of the arena that night. We will all stand and wave them together during the second period as well.
You can also print out an "I'm Fighting For" placard on our website, or purchase a purple "I'm Fighting For" shirt from the Sabres store, along with a pair of two 300 Level II tickets for $99.
Throughout the night, you will hear from Sabres players and coaches telling us about the people they are fighting for on the videoboard. You will also see photos of children from Carly's Club posing with Sam Reinhart, Tyler Ennis, and Jake McCabe at Roswell Park during a Flashes of Hope photoshoot earlier this month.
The nonprofit organization has been a recipient of the Sabres' Hockey Fights Cancer fund for the last five years, and is dedicated to photographing every child with cancer until we find a cure.
Flashes of Hope will have a photo station set up between from 5 until 6:30 p.m. near the elevators on the street level of the arena, where cancer survivors will be invited to pose for photos which they can later purchase.
On Hockey Fights Cancer Night, we celebrate and honor the brave people in our community who have battled the disease, and remember the lives it has taken. As always, the players will wear purple jerseys, and use sticks with purple tape during warmups. The jerseys will be auctioned off on Sabres.com/Auctions.
You will also have the chance to purchase a commemorative Hockey Fights Cancer hat, donated by New Era and autographed by a Sabres player, for $20 each. Proceeds will be donated to Roswell Park.
Hockey Fights Cancer Night is one of the league's strongest traditions. It's always one of the most memorable nights of the year, and we hope to see you there.