Fighting cancer one shift at a time -- The 11 Day Power Play

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - Are these guys crazy?

"I don't think I would use the word crazy, I think I would use the words committedly passionate," Jen Hicock from Roswell Park Cancer Institute said. "If that translates into a little bit crazy then I'm happy they're being crazy to help us."

Hicock is talking about a group of 40 men who are attempting the unthinkable --- a 250-hour nonstop charity hockey game raising $1 million for cancer research in Western New York.

"The world record for the longest hockey game has only been done in Canada," Mike Lesakowski, the event's founder said. "Buffalo is going to be the first in the United States, and we're very proud of that and we're hoping the community will rally around that."

The beginning

The idea started when Lesakowski saw firsthand how much cancer can change someone's life. In 2009, Mike's wife Amy, then only 35-years-old and a mother of three, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Amy underwent major surgery and spent months in chemotherapy before she entered remission.

"Seeing what my wife went through was difficult," Lesakowski added. "You just rely on those people that help you get through things and it makes you a stronger person because of it."

In 2014, Amy quit her job and made a career change, returning to Roswell Park, a place that forever changed her life. Working part time, Amy spends her time helping patients living with cancer, a battle she is all too familiar with.

Things were just starting to return to normal for the family of five, but then the unthinkable happened, Mike's mother Evelyn was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer in 2015.

In May of 2016, 62-year-old Evelyn lost her battle. At the time of her death, there was no medicine readily available to treat her particular type of cancer.

During Evelyn's final months Mike knew he needed to do something to honor his mother. While Amy battled cancer Mike had first thought about doing a charity hockey game to raise money for cancer research, but the game never came to fruition.

After Evelyn's death, the Lesakowski's revisited their plans for the hockey game -- putting the idea into action just months after later.

"Her [Evelyn] and my dad spent a lot of time traveling around the country when I was a little kid playing hockey," Mike said. "I think she would be proud of this event. She knows what a hockey fan I am and she knows what it means to me, so, I think giving back and this way she would be proud of it."

The 11 Day Power Play was born.

The players

In order to make this game happen the Lesakowski's needed to find 40 players willing to put their lives on hold for 11 days. This turned out to be one of the easiest things Mike and Amy had to do.

Hundreds of players from all over North America volunteered to lace up their skates and raise money for cancer research. Each player is responsible for raising $15,000, in addition to committing to 11 days of nonstop hockey.

"You just have to break it down one shift at a time," former Buffalo Sabres captain and participant Mike Peca joked. "It's not 11 days, it is one shift at a time."

Once the puck drops on June 22, 2017, there's no leaving HARBORCENTER. If a player leaves the rink they can't return to the game, regardless of the reason.

"I think we are going to do it and I think we have the support," former professional hockey player and participant Geoff Peters added. "I think a lot of credit should go out to Amy and Mike, so I think we should be thanking them."

The most commonly asked questions for the players

Q -- Where will the players sleep?

A -- The HARBORCENTER locker rooms will be turned into makeshift dorms. A local mattress company has donated 40 beds that will be moved into the rink before the game officially starts.

Q -- How long are the shifts?

A -- The game will be broken up for the players into four hours shifts. Every few hours a group of players will rotate on and off the ice. In most cases, players will spend four hours on the ice, followed by eight hours of 'rest'. The game must be non-stop, but the players can rotate in and out as long as there are five players and a goalie on each team at any given time.

Q -- Is the game open to the public?

A -- Absolutely. Spectators are encouraged to come check things out at the rink. Tickets will be sold, but all proceeds will be donated to cancer research.

Each player has a story and a reason why they're lacing up their skates. To meet the players click here.

How you can help

The 11 Day Power Play has already raised more than $250,000, but they've got a long way to go. If you're interested in volunteering or donating to the cause you can read more at 11daypowerplay.com. 

Follow Matt Bove on Twitter!

 

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