Hockey rivals work together for good cause
Published Thursday, January 29, 2015 6:40PM AST
On Wednesday night, two arch rivals, Saint Mary’s University and Dalhousie University, will meet on the ice, battling for position in the Atlantic University Sport standings. However, more importantly, they will be teammates that night, fighting for a cure for blood cancer.
The Saint Mary’s Huskies and Dalhousie Tigers will face off in the second annual Tom Strong Night.
The inspiration for the night is Huskies assistant coach Tom Lee. Lee has been battling mantle cell lymphoma since 2008.
After stepping away from the game to focus on his health, Lee is back on the ice where he belongs.
“They do 95% of it themselves, but as a coach, if you can have a small piece in helping them along their journey, that's where I get the high,” says Lee.
And, if his return has lifted his spirits, SMU head coach Trevor Steinburg says it's done even more for the Huskies.
“It's certainly benefitted our team on the ice, but I really mean off and the decisions that guys make off the ice, (the way they) treat each other and so forth,” says Steinburg. “It's been awful for Tom, but quite an experience for the rest of us.”
A year ago, the Huskies hosted the Acadia Axemen on the first Tom Strong Night at the Halifax Forum.
The game was a sellout and raised $20,000 for the leukemia and lymphoma society.
“It was shocking,” says Tom’s wife Leslie Lee. “I just remember after the game, because he couldn't stay, just watching it online and saying ‘I can't believe all those people were there.’”
This year, a second team is on board. The Dalhousie Tigers and SMU Huskies are in the midst of a friendly fundraising competition to see who can raise the most money for leukemia and lymphoma research.
“It's more than just a hockey game for sure. It's for a great cause and hopefully we can fill the hockey arena,” says Tigers forward Kendal MacInnis.
MacInnis drew on family inspiration to join the cause. His older brother survived lymphoma, but his grandfather did not.
MacInnis has been asking for donations of $73 dollars to match his uniform number. So far he's raised over $3,100.
“What Kendall has done personally? That's hero status, what's he's done on his own,” says Stienburg.
The 2nd annual Tom Strong Night will be held here at the Halifax Forum on Wednesday. Once again proceeds from the game - ticket sales, 50-50, and donations - will support leukemia and lymphoma research, helping to find a cure for Tom Lee and 110,000 Canadians living with, or in remission from blood cancers.
“It's my name. It's Tom Strong Night, but it's more than that. It's not really about me. It's about the disease and it's about that team, well two teams this night,” says Lee.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Jayson Baxter