40 friends in Alberta raise money for cancer in world's longest hockey game
Date: Friday, February 14 2003
ARDROSSAN, Alta. - Under the pale glare of a makeshift lighting system, 40
friends gathered on the ice of an NHL-sized rink in Brent Saik's front yard at 7
a.m. Thursday to begin playing what they hope will be the world's longest hockey
But getting into the Guinness Book of Records is only a subtext to this 72-hour shinny marathon. Their real goal is to raise money for cancer research - a disease that has touched most of the player's families.
"My father passed away nine years ago with cancer," said Saik, the goalie for the "Blue" team as an old Zamboni wheezed and rumbled on the ice during a break in the action.
"During his last few days he said 'When I'm gone, do whatever you can to try and raise funds,'Â " Saik, 34, said. "Cancer has been around for too long."
Three months ago Saik's wife, Susan, was diagnosed with cancer. The day Susan got out of the hospital Saik's aunt found out she also had the deadly disease.
The scene on the rural property east of Edmonton is like a Canadian version of Field of Dreams.
Saik's country home overlooks the rink, which sits in the middle of a grove of aspen and poplar trees glazed with silvery, white frost.
Bystanders bundled up against the cold watch the action standing behind ramshackle boards festooned with a Canadian flag and signs warning "please watch out for flying pucks."
Players noisily glide and grapple on the ice by board advertisements for Molson Canadian and Labatt's Blue.
When Trevor Maurer, who lives in Atlanta, heard about the game, he couldn't wait to fly to Alberta and lace up his skates. Sort of a "build it and they will come."
"I played about four-and-a-half hours this morning. My legs are rubber. I'm hurting," laughed Mauer who grew up in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
"It's a good bunch of guys. This is pretty amazing, isn't it?"
In between shifts, players from the White and Blue squads rest, sleep and change in an outbuilding that has been transformed into a combination cafeteria-dormitory-locker room.
Sweaty players flake out on cots jammed together in the small space hung with old duck decoys and Playboy centrefolds.
With 40 hockey bags inside, the place has a funky miasma odour that would make a pig farmer wince.
"We are all stinking it up in here," said Dave Checknita, who has a 14-year-old cousin who has cancer.
"Right now this is hockey heaven. Two days, three days from now, it will probably be hockey hell."
Outside the hockey hothouse, the player's wives and girlfriends marshal crates of water, cases of beer and vats of coffee to help keep the skaters going.
So far the players have gorged on fast food hamburgers and donuts. On Friday - Valentines Day - there will even be a dinner party of sorts.
"The wives are getting together and we are having a potluck dinner out here in the cold. I'm bringing a broccoli casserole," joked Karen Berube of Calgary.
"Hockey is not romance to me, but we will make the best of it."
Under the rules of the event the players - who each have $500 in pledges - aren't allowed to leave the property until the record is broken. They will hit the 72-hour mark sometime after 7 a.m. Sunday.
Susan Saik, 31, said she is completely overwhelmed by the response of friends, family and the community to the event.
"I never anticipated that it would get this size," said Susan, who has a one-year-old daughter.
"Because I was diagnosed with lymphoma in November this has really touched me - that they would all contribute their time for this cause."
As the players battled it out on the ice to the cheers of onlookers, Brent Saik's mother Vicki looked on and shook her head, marvelling how the hockey marathon has brought something positive out of such a deadly disease.
"This bunch of friends being together, all the energy and love, makes things a little easier," she said.
"I'm so pleased our son could carry out his father's wishes."