The History of Hockey Fights Cancer

Rangers Head Coach Alain Vigneault at the Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night, November 4, 2013.  Bruce Bennett/Getty Image.

Break out your lavender ties! This October, while watching your favorite teams slug it out in the regular season, you may notice a familiar slogan lighting up the boards around the ice rink: Hockey Fights Cancer.

In 1998, the NHL and the NHLPA commemorated each October to help raise money to fight cancer by donating to associated charitable organizations The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Prostate Cancer Canada, ZERO – the Project to End Prostate Cancer, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and, everyone’s favorite, Movember.

Former Lightning forward John Cullen/Tampa Bay Times.

The initiative begin when Tampa Bay Lighting player forward John Cullen was forced out of the 96-97 season after being diagnosed with the Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (ironically, also known as, NHL). He took time off to battle his diagnosis, came back for a few games in the 98-99 season but retired shortly after, paving his way to a Bill Masterson Trophy in 1999.

Look, I’m not a scientist and I can’t find a cure for cancer, but I know how to raise money,” said Timm Harmon.  (Stanley Cup Journals, 2004)

Meanwhile, at the University of South Florida, located in Tampa, Timm Harmon of the Moffitt Cancer Centre (and cancer survivor) took notice of Cullen’s struggle and teamed up with the Lightning to raise awareness. Thus was born: Hockey Fights Cancer.

Fundraising for this event is supported by online auctions, local tournaments, 50/50 raffles, ticket donations to local children’s hospitals and cancer-affiliated programs, fundraising runs and walks, and supported by players, coaches, fans and broadcasters.

Penguins’ Sidney Crosby at the 2007 All Star Game.  Shaun Best/Reuters

In 2007, Sidney Crosby’s All Star jersey was auctioned for $47,520. Players jerseys have, in total, raised $140,000 for the event. However, in 16 years, the event has only raised $13 million. That is $812k on average per year. In light of the awesomeness that was the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raising $115 million, Hockey Fights Cancer could raise more.

Hockey Fights Cancer needs an even bigger initiative to fit the times that we live in. In 1998, we were still using dial-up internet and cell phones were comical. In 2014, we can do more than bid on a few jerseys to help fight cancer. To compare, in one night, Rangers’ Dominic Moore’s Smashfest Ping Pong Tournament raised $140k. That is a 1/5th less than Hockey Fights Cancer, a month long event.

In the meantime, check out the NHL shop to buy your lavender shirts (in lieu of the pink ones for Breast Cancer Awareness, also this month) and Hockey Fights Cancer 2014 memorabilia to support the cause.

If you would like to send a donation by check:
For Canadian Residents:
Check Payable to:
NHL Foundation
P.O. Box 1282, Station B
Montreal, Quebec H3B 3K9

For U.S. Residents:
Check Payable to:
Hockey Fights Cancer
P.O. Box 5037
New York, NY 10185-5037

Please note “Donation to Hockey Fights Cancer” in your check’s memo section. Also, include your name and current address so that your donation can be acknowledged. All donations are tax-deductible.


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