With the announcement that came from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday, about defenseman Olli Maatta having a thyroid tumor removed, Hockey Fights Cancer Night in Pittsburgh really took on a whole new meaning.
20-year-old Olli Maatta will undergo surgery at some point next week to remove a tumor that is estimated to have an 85% chance of being cancerous. Doctors are hopeful that after removal, he should be able to return back to hockey (in some form) in an estimated period of around 4 weeks, depending on how everything heals. They are remaining optimistic, and believe that even if they do find cancer, that they should be able to handle it in the offseason. Their main priority right now is to get rid of the tumor, and go from there.
This 20 year old defenseman has been through a lot so early in his hockey career. After just recovering from shoulder surgery, Maatta found out during testing before the season, that there was a tumor that had to be removed on his thyroid gland. He has played over 3 weeks of hockey, in fact some of the best hockey of his life, while knowing the possibility of having cancer. That is just a showcase of his maturity at such a young age.
Olli Maatta is not letting this affect him. He is not looking to be put on a pedestal so people can feel sorry for him. In press conference earlier this week when asked about how he felt he said, “I felt the same as I did before I found out. I feel healthy and fine. The only thing that’s different is that now I may have cancer. It’s tough news, but I don’t think it has affected me much.”
His perseverance has inspired teammates, and rivals from all around the league. The support that he has gotten is more of a respect, than anything considering the way that he has handled the whole situation.
Won’t meet a better person than Olli Maata, kid is a stud and will be back better than ever. #HockeyFightsCancer
— Beau Bennett (@BeauBennett19) October 27, 2014
Kris Letang: “The only thing that comes to my mind when we talk about Olli is maturity… He is really mature for his age.”
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 28, 2014
Crosby on Olli Maatta: “He’s as strong as they come.” -MC — Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) October 28, 2014
So when Thursday came around for the Pens, the ordeal took on a whole new light. All around the league, players and staff have been personally affected by cancer. To have a teammate that has a high chance of having a cancerous tumor, means that they all have a personal reason (if not many) to fight cancer and support this cause.
Olli Maatta, himself, commented on how Hockey Fights Cancer is “a good thing to raise awareness. It’s a tough battle for those that have it and I think it’s a really good thing that the league is doing.” There is support from all around the league about the effectiveness of this month in the NHL.
Sidney Crosby addressed the night, and his teammate to the media by saying:
“The fact that we have someone that we can look across the room and support here, it’s the case, so it probably means a little more knowing you got a guy on your team that’s going through something like that. But I think in some ways, it’s affected everyone at some point so it’s real nice we’re able to do this [Hockey Fights Cancer Night].”