Time to play on the outdoor rink

By Jamie Harkins

February 7, 2018 2:00 PM

  Lloydminster’s Evan Nygren, left, and Kevin Morris ready a cheque for $6,013 that will be donated to the Alberta Cancer Foundation as part of a fundraising effort through their participation in the World’s Longest Hockey Game at an outdoor rink near Sherwood Park next week. The funds were raised during a 2%Realty hosted steak night at the Canadian Brewhouse on Jan. 25. JAMIE HARKINS LLS PHOTO

An opportunity to power change and accelerate discovery in pediatric cancer research has led a couple of local hockey players to an outdoor rink near Sherwood Park.
Lloydminster’s Kevin Morris and Evan Nygren, workers with 2% Realty, are lacing up the skates at the World’s Longest Hockey Game in an effort to raise funds for the Alberta Cancer Foundation in support of the Terry Fox Research Institute’s PROFYLE, which is a Canadian-led group of pediatric cancer and gene sequencing doctors committed to helping young children facing the disease.
Morris and Nygren are among 40 brave volunteers that will compete day-and-night on an outdoor rink at Saiker’s Acres from Feb. 9 to 19.
Morris said this will mark his fifth time playing in the World’s Longest Hockey Game, dating back to its second installment in 2005. He said there are a lot of strong friendships that are developed among the group of players who sacrifice their body during the contest, but the real reason he keeps coming back is the direct help that the $3.4 million raised over the course of the six events, so far, have provided to helping people suffering from the disease.
The game will be played continuously for 10-and-a-half days, which will break a record set by a group of philanthropists last year at an indoor rink in Buffalo, N.Y. The work each player is expected to handle over the course of every 24 hours includes a four-to-five hour and two two-and-a-half hour on-ice shifts surrounding a seven-or-eight hour break.
“In that break you really need to get some sleep,” said Morris. “If you don’t sleep, you are not literally going to sleep for 24 hours again by the time the shifts come and go. That’s all great the first day, but at some point somebody gets injured. They either take a puck in the face or get slashed, or something happens and their body breaks down in some way. Then somebody has to pick up those extra hours.”
Morris said the Saiker’s Acres site, which was built by the World’s Longest Hockey Game founder Brent Saik, is a full-size NHL rink built outdoors and equipped with lighting for nighttime play.
He said there is also an adjacent facility that provides sleeping quarters and medical rooms for the players, as well as a large hall and balcony for spectators who usually include people and families that have been helped by their efforts.
“We have had some referees with chemo bags on and they’re literally taking chemo treatment while they’re on the ice refereeing the game,” he said. “Our first game, we (fundraised) for a very specific piece of equipment that isolated some cancers for youth, and a lot of the parents really credited us with saving their kid’s lives. So, there is a few families that come out time after time to see us every three years when we play and they thank us every time.”
Nygren said a touch of nerves has affected him as the start to his first World’s Longest Hockey Game nears, but that feeling has been overshadowed by the excitement of playing in something that provides so much help and hope to others. He said Morris first approached him a few months ago with the idea of suiting up as one of four goalies at the game and everything just sort of snowballed from there.
“Everyone has been affected by cancer one way or another, so, as far as that goes, it’s a pretty easy decision to make,” said Nygren. “It’s an excellent opportunity to do something to make a real impact.”
Anyone who would like to support Morris or Nygren in their efforts to raise funds for the Alberta Cancer Foundation can do so by googling World’s Longest Hockey Game, click on their player profile and submit a donation.
A call is also out to anyone who can make it down to Saiker’s Acres to support the cause through simply being a spectator and buying a sandwich or beverage during the game or by raising a hand and volunteering their time at the event.
“We have some good players and we have some bad players and that’s okay,” said Morris.
“The score ends up being 2400-2300, so nobody cares. Some guys get donations based on goals, so we just try to set that guy up. The better hockey players will go and be on a breakaway, but then wait for the other guy because you want to (raise) as much as you can. It’s not about the hockey. It’s about raising funds and helping in the fight against cancer.”

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