Hockey players are tough and fight hard to win. Hockey fans are also tough, weathering the ups and downs of their teams wins, losses, memorable moments, and forgettable plays. At the end of the day, however, we all, players and fans alike, realize that despite what the player earns or what the fan pays it is still a game.

Cancer is not a game. Cancer is a true fight. It is a fight for life and death. The cancer patient battles daily to overcome this dreadful disease. They fight pain, nausea, surgeries, triumphs, and heartaches. Their families are no less affected. They battle sorrow, a sense of helplessness, and their own fears.  Few if any of us have been left untouched by this dreaded disease – either as a victim or as a loved one.

The National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) recognize this too. That’s why the NHL and NHLPA are so pleased to announce their 17th Annual “Hockey Fights Cancer” campaign and are inviting all fans to also join the fight which runs from Monday, October 19th until Friday, November 13th.

The world of hockey has suffered its own losses to cancer.  Murray Balfour, a nine year veteran of the NHL and member of the 1961 Stanley Cup Chicago Blackhawks career ended when he succumbed to lung cancer in 1965. Wayne Maki, a player of 246 games with the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, and Vancouver Canucks lost his battle with brain cancer in 1974.  Even now in more modern times, an NHL family knows the pain of loss to cancer only too well. The Foligno family: father Mike, a former NHL’er and current Assistant Coach with the New Jersey Devils, and his two sons, Marcus who plays for the Buffalo Sabres, and Nick, a left-winger with the Columbus Blue Jackets, lost their wife and mother Janis in 2009.

The Foligno family attends an event in remembrance of Janis Foligno, who passed in 2009 of cancer.

The Foligno family attends an event in remembrance of Janis Foligno, who passed in 2009 of cancer.

These stories and many more like them are why the NHL and NHLPA have donated more than $15 million since 1998. This money has been dedicated to supporting both national and local organizations that are involved in cancer care and research. This year alone, the two organizations, with the support of numerous other groups and NHL franchises throughout the U.S. and Canada plan to give another $200,000 in grants to local cancer organizations located in all 30 NHL markets and nationally to the following five cancer organizations.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society who will further invest in research to advance therapies and save lives.

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network to allocate to its Community for Progress professional development and mentorship program for scientific researchers.

Prostate Cancer Canada to help fund its PCC Personnel Awards program which provides financial support and mentorship for promising, young prostate cancer researchers.

ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer will use its donation to provide an online database of free testing sites for men at risk of prostate cancer, as well as free mobile testing in select markets.

Movember (we all recognize the player mustaches in November) which has allocated its grant to continue to fund its men’s health initiatives which include prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health, and physical inactivity.

Some of the highlights of this year’s drive include:

National Broadcasts: In the U.S., NBCSN will broadcast division rivals St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks on November 4 at 8:00 p.m. ET. In Canada, Sportsnet will feature Winnipeg Jets playing host to Philadelphia Flyers on November 7 at 7:00 p.m. ET. Both broadcasts will highlight lavender – the official color of the campaign representing all cancers – and will include sportscasters wearing the exclusive Hockey Fights Cancer™ tie; players with exclusive decals on their helmets, including some with lavender stick tape; and lavender rink boards.

In-Arena Awareness Nights: All 30 NHL Clubs will designate one home game as its Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night and will include fan engaging events and activities (full schedule attached). Visit each NHL Club website for more information.

EA Sports: Throughout the campaign, this initiative will be featured in NHL® 16 and integrated into the game’s Hockey Ultimate Team game mode. EA SPORTS also will donate $10,000 to Hockey Fights Cancer.

The NHL and NHLPA, it partner affiliates, and all of us here at thepinkpuck.com would like to encourage you to consider helping in any way possible.  For more information on the Hockey Fights Cancer campaign, and the many ways you can help, please go to their website at HockeyFightsCancer.com.

Hockey is the greatest sport on earth and hockey fans are the greatest fans. Let’s show the world what we can do when we step up to make a difference.

*A special thank you to fellow The Pink Puck contributor, Carly Mullady for lending creative insight to this piece.

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