Tampa Bay Lightning and NHL Celebrate Hockey Fights Cancer this October

Hockey Fights Cancer runs throughout the month of November. Photo via Ashley Vedral

During the month of November, the NHL contributes to the fight against cancer with their ‘Hockey Fights Cancer’ nights, bringing funding and awareness to the cause.

Each of the 31 NHL teams take pride in participating. The teams choose one home game during the month of November to dedicate to those affected by the disease. The players wear lavender jerseys during warm ups in addition to their own personal touches like lavender stick tape or skate accessories.

The league began this initiative after Former Tampa Bay Lightning forward John Cullen was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1997. Cullen had played in 13 NHL seasons before his diagnosis.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a cancer that develops in white blood cells and can begin in different parts of the body causing a variety of symptoms.

Cullen went through six rounds of radiation and chemotherapy along with a bone marrow transplant that stopped his heart temporarily.

After taking a year off to go through his recovery, Cullen attempted to play in the NHL again during the 1998-99 season, but decided to retire after just four games.

Due to the recent cancer diagnosis of New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle, who played with the Lightning from 2014 to early 2017, the current Lightning players dedicated their Hockey Fights Cancer night to Boyle.

Boyle wasn’t the only recent diagnosis that left the Lightning community solemn. FOX Sports Sun television host Paul Kennedy was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer approximately two weeks ago. Kennedy is in his 12th season as the Lightning’s rink side reporter but is taking a hiatus to deal with his diagnosis and recovery.

Players posed carrying signs saying who they fight for pre-game to show support for those who have been personally affected by the disease. Fans are given ‘I Fight For’ signs upon entry during Hockey Fights Cancer night and encouraged to write down someone they fight for. These pictures are shared throughout the arena and social media, uniting thousands of survivors and supporters.

“I look forward to this night every year,” said Kyrah Joseph, a longtime Lightning fan, “I am pursuing a career as a physician’s assistant at USF and have a personal connection the the subject.”

All around the league, players, staff and fans share their own stories regarding the vicious disease. Vancouver Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson has been very vocal about his brother’s battle against Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia is a cancer that develops within different blood forming cells and can progress quickly if untreated. A bone-marrow transplant is the most common treatment for this particular cancer.

Gudbranson’s younger brother, Denis was just six years old when he was diagnosed. At the age of 11, Gudbranson had to take on a lot more responsibility than the average 11 year old. He became the third parent in his household having to look after his other younger brother, Alex, and his younger sister, Chantel.

Gudbranson’s brother received a bone-marrow transplant after having been in remission and then having the cancer return just a few months later.

Denis is now a healthy 19 year old attending college at Concordia University in Montreal.

Additionally, NBCSN announcer, former player and Stanley Cup Champion Eddie Olczyk was diagnosed with colon cancer earlier this season and is currently receiving treatment.

“In 2016, an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 595,690 people will die from the disease,” according to the National Cancer Institute.

The awareness that the NHL and many other professional sports leagues have brought to this cause is one of the many reasons why people like Denis Gudbranson are able to find donors that are willing to help.

The league plans to continue this initiative for as long as it possibly can, hopefully leading to a cure.

 

Ice Bulls Make it To Nationals

 

The USF Ice Bulls make nationals for the first time in program history.

The University of South Florida Ice Bulls had a rough season, ending 10-18 before entering regionals. USF capitalized on two major games during the regular season, beating two top seeded teams.

Thanks to freshman goalie, Sam Coleman, who 60 minutes into the game blocked all incoming shots, the Bulls knocked out the University of South Carolina Gamecocks 1-0 in overtime in the first round of regionals at Florida Center Ice in Wesley Chapel.

The following night, the Bulls earned a nationals spot defeating the Liberty University Flames 6-3. Weston Moon scored the first goal early in the first period, followed by goals from Logan Sheehan in the middle of the second, Kenny Weightman late in the second, Huw Baveystock early in the third, Lukas Medo late in the third, and Michael Budd in the last minute of regulation.

Earning their place at nationals the Bulls had one more hurdle to overcome. In an attempt to cover the costs of the trip they started a GoFundMe page and asked fans for support.  They did not disappoint, the Ice Bulls fans raised over $11,000.

The following night, the Bulls earned a nationals spot defeating the Liberty University Flames 6-3. Weston Moon scored the first goal early in the first period, followed by goals from Logan Sheehan in the middle of the second, Kenny Weightman late in the second, Huw Baveystock early in the third, Lukas Medo late in the third, and Michael Budd in the last minute of regulation.

Nationals will be held at Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The team will travel to Columbus, Ohio to fight for the title of  the American Collegiate Hockey Association division 3 national champions.

The Bulls will take on the number one seeded Calvin College Knights on March 14 to start their postseason.

To find out more on how you can support your USF hockey team on their road to nationals, visit www.gofundme.com/USFHockey.

Brandon Ice Rink Helps Students Learn to Skate

The Tampa Bay Lightning made a terrific run to the Stanley Cup semifinals last hockey season, which has recently prompted an increased interest in ice skating and hockey in the Tampa Bay area.

One of the few ice skating rinks in Tampa is located in Brandon, where the Lightning practice and visit quite often. The Brandon Ice Sports Forum houses a highly qualified staff and hosts many students who have attended the rink for years.

“My favorite thing about skating is how beautiful of a sport it is and how free it makes you feel,” current student Isabella Ramirez said. “It teaches you a lot of life lessons like to always get up when you fall down.”

Courtney O’Connor, a former student turned coach, is one of the main coaches at the rink. O’Connor works six days a week making sure her students receive the best training.

“I get to share the love that I have for ice skating with my students,” O’Connor said. “It’s really nice to be able to see them out there on the ice, skating, having a smile on their face and having that enjoyment.”

O’Connor has been coaching for four years and has plans to keep coaching for as long as she can. She has also been skating since she was three.

The Brandon Ice Sports Forum works closely with each student through private lessons and other skating classes. One of the most popular skating classes the ice rink offers is “Learn to Skate.” This class gives children and even adults the opportunity to learn skills that ice skaters and hockey players acquire through years of training.

To sign up for “Learn to Skate” or any other classes with the Brandon Ice Sports Forum, please visit http://www.theicesportsforum.com/.

Student Rush brings Lightning tickets to students for a fair price

Over the past few years, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Student Rush ticket program has gained popularity.

The program gives students with a valid high school or college ID the chance to purchase the best available tickets shortly before game time at a fair price.

“We think it’s a great program for both sides,” said Patrick Abts, the Lightning’s Digital Marketing Manager who oversees Student Rush. “It allows us to fill some of the last remaining seats with some of our best fans.”

Students are allowed to line up for Student Rush tickets as early as 7 a.m. on game days, and remain in line until two hours prior to game time to be given a wristband with their number in line.

Thirty minutes before game time, the students are led to the box office where they can purchase the best available tickets at a discounted rate. For the playoffs, any remaining lower level seats will be sold for $50, which normally ranges between $100 and $300. Standing room and upper level tickets will be sold for $25.

“Student Rush is amazing,” said Kristen Thomas, who arrived at 9 a.m. for tickets. “We do this all the time. It gives us a chance to root on the Bolts when we normally wouldn’t be able to afford playoff tickets. “

Organizers believe that if the Lightning continues through the playoffs, the demand will continue to grow and ultimately exceed the supply.

“We’re guaranteeing 100 tickets per game for the playoffs,” Abts said. “We don’t know until game time whether they are lower, upper, or standing room, but we’re guaranteeing 100 per game and may have more depending on the game.”

Abts and his colleagues agree that the best way students can guarantee themselves a Student Rush ticket is to arrive as close to 7 a.m. as possible.

Inaugural Carolina Sled Hockey Classic

 

From Mar. 11 to Mar. 13, 2016, the Polar Ice House of Wake Forest in Wake Forest, North Carolina was home to The Inaugural Carolina Sled Hockey Classic. 

The Carolina Sled Classic featured 50 disabled athletes from five different teams from throughout the southeast United States. 

The teams featured in the photo essay are the Nashville Sled Preds and the Virginia Beach Hockey Club Sled Team. The game was dominated by the Sled Preds, who eventually went on to play in the championship game.