Tonight begins the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer promotion at HP Pavilion and, just like every facet of society, the Sharks lockerroom has ties to the difficult disease that unfortunately touches just about everybody in some manner.
Last year at this time, Devin Setoguchi’s maternal grandmother, Shirley Tudor, was still a part of his world. Then last year at Christmas she succumbed to cancer and a bright light in Setoguchi’s life burned out. Setoguchi’s uncle passed away soon after and they were both preceded by Setoguchi’s maternal grandfather who passed away when “Seto” was only 10. It is a sad reminder how far reaching cancer is and why the awareness created by the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer is so important.
“We lost her to cancer last year at Christmas time,” Setoguchi said. “She had stage 4 cancer and it kind of crept up on us. They caught it really late and there was nothing they could really do.”
The timing of the loss didn’t help when dealing with the situation and Setoguchi left his Sharks family briefly to help support the Taber, Alberta family.
“That was tough, it stunk to lose her last year on Christmas day,” Setoguchi said. “My mom (who was visiting) had to fly home and then I flew home for the funeral later on.”
Setoguchi’s relationship with his grandmother was strong enough that when her name comes up, a smile quickly comes to the young forward’s face as a lifetime of her memories rush forward. As with a lot of grandchildren, a grandmother has a special spot in their hearts.
“She was my mom’s mom and she was always around and came to my hockey games and supported me in everything I did,” Setoguchi pointed out. “She had a lot of grandchildren on my mom’s side, but she didn’t treat anyone any better or any worse, no matter who they were. She kind of kept me in line. The hugs were always there and anything you ever wanted she would always give to you if you asked. If she gave anything to one person, she gave it to everyone. She loved us a lot and definitely loved her kids a lot.”
Being an NHLer, Setoguchi had some distance between he and his family the past several seasons, but there was still the summertime to catch up and phone calls to keep the contact going.
“Whenever she was with my mom they would always call and want to talk,” Setoguchi said. “My mom would always go over there. During the summer time when she was sick and fighting it, she would always walk around with her Sharks hat on. We did a promotional thing in Taber and she showed up (to encourage me). She was always very supportive.”
Supportive and interested in her grandson who she helped make a better person than he is a hockey player and that is a big statement for a 30-goal scorer. There is no question that in a land where hockey is close to a religion that there was an extra bit of pride that Setoguchi’s hard work has paid off in his young career.
“She always asked about hockey and she would come down here. It was sweeter for her once I made it,” Setoguchi said. “One of the last things she said to my mom was it stinks that she won’t get to watch any more Sharks hockey games.”
While Setoguchi’s grandmother may not be able to attend Sharks games any more, he knows she’s still watching in a different manner.
“We miss her, but she is up there watching and probably (yelling) if I’m not playing good,” Setoguchi said. “I’ve got to make sure I’m playing good tonight.”
It’s not solely the awareness created by the Hockey Fights Cancer games that creates all the memories either as each Sharks game brings a reminder of Setoguchi’s grandmother.
“Every game I always say a prayer and it’s always something directed towards her or my uncle,” Setoguchi said. “This month (Hockey Fights Cancer) is good for us. I’m not the only one who as lost someone to cancer. It’s tough (on a lot of people). It’s a good thing we promote it and look into it as a league to try and help find a cure. Usually when I do golf tournaments in the summer I do little donations to cancer (charities).”
And those donations are another extra reason to think of his grandmother.
HOCKEY FIGHTS CANCER HAPPENINGS
The Sharks are engaging in several activities to help support the Hockey Fights Cancer program. There will be Hockey Fights Cancer decals on all the player helmets and all coaches and broadcasters will wear the HFC purple ties.
In-game, an auction benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) will take place and the organization will have two table locations on the concourse. S.J. Sharkie will visit a donated suite hosting 20 people from LLS and more about 100 tickets were donated for guest from LLS and the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital. Four of those special guests will ride the Zamboni at the intermissions and postgame there will be player visits with Setoguchi, Joe Thornton
, Dany Heatley and Torrey Mitchell
The Sharks will host Carolina Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. and the game will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com. Tickets for all Sharks home games can be found at www.ticketmaste.com or at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office.