Every November, the National Hockey League celebrates “Hockey Fights Cancer” month. Throughout the month, every team is able to share personal stories from players’ lives and many even reach out to their fans to share their own stories.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Hockey Fights Cancer Night was a Chicago staple; for one night of the month, the Blackhawks would roll out a lavender carpet before their game and honor people fighting cancer, people in remission and people who have lost someone to cancer. This year would have been the fourth year the team held this ceremony, sporting their purple warmup jerseys and finishing off the celebration by holding hands with young children battling the disease on the ice during the national anthem.
For the Blackhawks, the fight against cancer is personal. According to a 2016 article on NHL.com, the Blackhawks’ General Manager Stan Bowman suffered from Hodgkins lymphoma in the early 2000s.
“It’s one of those things that has touched everybody. I think everybody has somebody who’s been affected by cancer,” Bowman said in the article. “Either they’ve gone through it themselves or they have a close friend or relative. When you see the lavender, it’s a symbolic thing. The colors in the building are about trying to rally everyone’s support to do something that impacts everybody.”
In addition to Bowman’s brush with cancer, former goaltender Scott Darling’s mother, Cindy Darling, had suffered from breast cancer twice in a ten year span.
Another special part of Hockey Fights Cancer month is the cards; the NHL has printable pages designed with each team logo. On the page, fans write the names of people they are fighting for in the battle against cancer. Many of the teams participate in this activity as well; players will commonly write names of their grandparents, parents, siblings, close friends, and post them on social media for fans to see. The signs, which are available through the NHL website, come in many different languages featuring different charity organizations and teams. Fans are encouraged to post pictures of their sign on social media using the hashtag “HockeyFightsCancer” for a chance to be featured on the NHL website.
After November ends, many teams continue to support the fight against cancer in other ways. The Chicago Blackhawks are involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that gives kids with terminal illnesses a chance to live their dreams. Participants can wish for things such as meeting the team or participating in a Blackhawks practice. Whether they dream of scoring a goal on the ice with Duncan Keith, selling Girl Scout cookies to Jonathan Toews or eating macaroni and cheese and reading bedtime stories with Corey Crawford, Make-A-Wish can make it happen.
To learn more about how the Chicago Blackhawks, along with the rest of the NHL, provide support and resources for cancer patients and survivors, visit NHL.com/community/hockey-fights-cancer.