The National Hockey League is set to hold a league-wide pause this weekend for a moment of silence acknowledging Hockey Fights Cancer and those who have been lost to the disease.
Over the last 24 years, Hockey Fights Cancer has raised awareness and over $32 million to support families and cancer patients. While cancer is an issue that affects millions across the globe, the disease also affects the hockey world directly, including the recent passing of legends Mike Bossy, Dale Hawerchuk and Guy Lafleur.
The disease has also affected current players. Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Rodion Amirov is undergoing additional treatment after being diagnosed with a brain tumor in February. Washington Capitals prospect Ivan Miroshnichenko was recently deemed cancer-free after battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma last summer, and current San Jose Sharks forward Oskar Lindblom won a public fight with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, during the 2019-20 season.
“It meant a lot to me to see my teammates and the larger hockey community offer their support in what was a difficult time for me and my family,” Lindblom said in an NHLPA news release. “Every year with the league’s Hockey Fights Cancer initiative, it’s a reminder of the battles I went through.
“But it also shows the incredible amount of support and the network we have to help others out and continue to spread awareness, raise funds to help others in their fight and be able to tell the unique stories of all who have been affected by this disease .”
Hockey Fights Cancer is a significant opportunity to spread messaging, according to Dr. Arif Kamal, the American Cancer Society’s chief patient officer. In particular, Dr. Kamal, who spent more than a decade serving as an oncologist, researcher, and innovative leader at Duke University and the Duke Cancer Institute, hopes hockey fans hear the call to return to regular cancer screening, which has dropped during the pandemic.
“Hockey Fights Cancer is a really good example to bring to thousands of people at one time and is really an important reminder to get back on a screening schedule,” said Kamal. “It’s an important time to put on your calendar to talk to your doctor about cancer screening.”
“This is a longstanding and important initiative,” continued Kamal. “We really appreciate the relationship with the NHL. It’s the kind of visibility we need to normalize these conversations and make them less medical.
“When you think about cancer screening and cancer prevention as something that is up to only doctors to provide messaging, that doesn’t work. When you put that messaging behind things we like to do for fun and entertainment like hockey, that gets the message out to a broader group of people.”
The NHL, NHLPA and Canadian and American cancer societies combined partnership and initiatives are an opportunity to give back to families and educate fans. Fans can also win a trip to the NHL’s All-Star weekend when they donate to HockeyFightsCancer.com/NHLAllStar.
Programming also includes the Stanley Cup Hope Lodge Tour. Hope Lodges are locations that provide free accommodations during treatment so patients and their families can focus on getting better while feeling surrounded by emotional and health support.
Throughout November, the NHL’s 32 teams have participated in awareness campaigns and fundraisers, and they have held special event nights to recognize Hockey Fights Cancer. According to the NHL website, on these nights, there will be “lavender dasher boards (lavender representing all cancers), and coaches and broadcasters will be wearing HFC ties. Players celebrating their Hockey Fights Cancer Night will wear special Hockey Fights Cancer jerseys and use lavender stick tape during warmups.”
Cancer is a disease that has the potential to affect all people, including hockey players and their families. With that in mind, Hockey Fights Cancer continues to support those affected in hopes of eventually beating the disease.