My Hockey Fights Cancer Story
November is Hockey Fights Cancer Month. Since 1998, the NHL community honors and unites families to support cancer patients and their families. Each team stages their arena with lavender dasher boards and promotes cancer awareness with promotional items and placards for fans to write who they are fighting for in a game. Throughout the game, fans are seen holding signs saying, “I fight for,” with a name on each person’s placard.
The St. Louis Blues hosted their Hockey Fights Cancer night on November 1st. Just a month earlier, I had lost a dear friend to esophageal cancer on October 2nd.
He was diagnosed with cancer in August of 2018. Jerry Hagan is featured in the first picture far right as we prepared to leave for Mexico in November 2018. The doctor said Jerry was healthy enough to travel. The doctor encouraged him to take as many adventures as he wanted while he was still feeling well. He was early on in his fight.
Jerry was a fighter and an even bigger Blues fan. At 61 years old, he had put in the time as a Blues fan to have followed them and experienced all of the pain and heartache that came with being a fan. His two favorite players of all time were #10 Wayne Babych and #5, Bob Plager. At one time, I asked Jerry why these were his two favorite players, and he replied, “I don’t know,” they’re just two guys I identified with, and I loved their style of play.”
There is no harm in that answer whatsoever. I get it. You find a player you identify with and gravitate to them. As last season carried on, Jerry continued to fight through his treatments. It was clear the Blues were moving in a positive direction. Laila Anderson surfaced, and the Blues rallied around her as she became a pivotal piece of inspiration throughout the playoff run. It is very encouraging to see this organization remain inclusive and supportive as Laila persevered through her recovery. Jerry was fighting just as hard and finally got to see his St. Louis Blues hoist The Cup.
As a fan, we look for inspiration, and Jerry wanted nothing more than to see his team win it all like so many other fans. This second picture is of Jerry and me at a KISS concert on September 1st. His goal was to see KISS, and we made it. He was still fighting, and he was able to experience two things this year. He saw his Blues win The Cup and see KISS. Jerry’s health was declining. He still fought like Laila and the Blues to achieve their ultimate goal.
The last picture is the most bittersweet. On October 2nd, I went to the hospital to see Jerry for the last time. Before I went into the room, his beloved wife, Dianne came out and handed me two jerseys. The jerseys were Babych and Plager. Jerry knew that opening night was on October 2nd. He asked my wife and me to wear his two favorite player jerseys on this night. I couldn’t hold back the tears as they poured out. Jerry did not want us to miss opening night as the Blues raised the Championship Banner. For as many memories that all Blues fans have, this will be one I never forget.
Proudly, we wore the jerseys that evening. This picture is my wife and I giving a toast to a great friend who held the Blues so close to his heart. It was a heavy day, and to think our friend wanted nothing more than to honor him by wearing those jerseys was even more emotional.
Most importantly, while each NHL team specifies their Hockey Fights Cancer Night, it would only be befitting that the Blues held their night on November 1st. Jerry’s daughter and son-in-law attended the November 1st game and were caught on TV for a brief moment. They even received a game puck from that evening. If anything, someone above was watching, and that’s all that matters. As a fan, I am thankful for the Blues for their support and encouragement in the Hockey Fights Cancer nights. No matter who you are fighting for, it does matter, and we are all family.
Thank you for reading. Take care of yourselves and each other.