Bob Probert, Stu "The Grim Reaper" Grimson, Tony Twist, Dave "The Hammer" Schultz, Tie Domi, Dave Brown, Marty McSorely, Tim Hunter, Dave Semenko, Joey Kocur, Dave "Tiger" Williams...you get the picture. These men were among the most legendary, intimidating forces in the game and could change the momentum of an NHL contest just by stepping onto the ice. They were universally feared, often hated, but always respected. Their ability to willingly offer their fists and faces as a sacrifice to the team, while all the while throwing punishing haymakers, have enshrined them in the lore of the game that we love.
As bruising as a Bob Probert right hand could be, as intimidating as seeing Dave Schultz coming over the boards was or as pulse-quickening as seeing 80's Oiler, Dave Semenko, shaking off his gloves and motioning to Flames great, Tim Hunter, no enforcer, no knucle-chucking brawl, no haymaker could ever be as feared as this single word: Cancer.
I wont bore you with technical descriptions of what cancer is or how it works, but suffice it to say that cancer is a killer and one that will have seen more than 1.4 million new cases in the U.S. alone in 2008. According to the American Cancer Society, the death toll due to cancer in America last year was more than 560,000 lives - which equated to one death in four in the U.S. being cancer related. The Canadian Cancer Society (Societe Canadienne du Cancer) reports that more than 166,000 new cases of cancer developed in 2008 and over 73,000 deaths were reported last year - which meant that 1 in 4 Canadians will have died of cancer, mirroring the U.S. figure. One thing is abundantly clear, it doesn't care where you live, what flag you salute, what political party you follow or don't follow or what team's jersey you wear. Cancer is a cold blooded killer that will affect someone you know in your lifetime, it might even be you.
I have routinely killed the NHL on its ability to market the game to oncoming generations. That being said, one of the many things that makes our sport so great is that the NHL and its players seem to have the innate ability to reach out and touch the issues that matter to its fans, at their most basic level. It is my opinion that, much more so than any other sport, fans can directly relate to hockey players and get that sense that they are as "real" as a professional athlete can possibly hope to be. Therefore, it is not so great a stretch for me to believe that the average hockey fan can relate to and applaud the league's initiative - Hockey Fights Cancer.
Hockey Fights Cancer is a joint program between the NHL and the NHL Players' Association to raise funds and awareness for the fight against cancer. This program was started in 1998 and over twenty years later has raised more than $1.2 million for the Canadian Cancer Society and more than $10 million in total. The list of those who contribute to this worth cause goes beyond the players and member clubs, to include NHL Alumni, the NHL Officials Association, Professional Hockey Trainers and Equipment Managers, corporate marketing partners, broadcast partners and fans, themselves.
(NHL 2008 HFC poster boys, Lecavalier, Crosby and Brodeur lead the charge)
As you may know, October 2008 was Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Month, which involved all levels of all 30 teams. During October, players, coaches, management and arenas all proudly displayed stickers and banners supporting the league's fight against this silent killer. By all accounts, it was a huge success and an even that should be properly celebrated. Here are some photos detailing the month long event:
(Teemu Selanne and the Ducks vs the Leafs, October 21, 2008)
(Leafs Assistant - Keith Acton wearing the Hockey Fights Cancer tie)
(Johnathan Towes and Patrick Kane pose for a promotional picture)
(Danny Heatley with a sticker on his helmet and the Sens vs Phoenix on October 17, 2008)
Canucks netminder, Roberto Luongo vs the Red Wings on October 16, 2008)
On behalf of those with the affliction, I urge you to support Hockey Fights Cancer either by a donation, raised awareness or through purchasing one of the HFC items found on Shop.NHL.com and wearing it. The link to the HFC merchandise on Shop.NHL.com is http://shop.nhl.com/famil...ryId=3322605&view=all
I know the HFC Awareness Month occurred four months ago. Perhaps, that is why I am bringing it to light in January of 2009. The fight against cancer is an ongoing battle and the NHL will take up the fight again this year. Cancer doesn't know the change in calendars and doesn't take a shift off. Only by matching it with our own relentless efforts, can we hope to stem the tide and land yet another haymaker that might put this dreaded disease to the ice for good.
Thanks for reading...