November’s a momentous month for ice hockey, and not just because it’s the thick of the season. It’s also when the National Hockey League goes all out for its annual cancer fundraiser and awareness campaign, Hockey Fights Cancer.
Done in partnership with the American Cancer Society, the Movember Foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society, the campaign includes each of the 31 NHL teams holding a Hockey Fights Cancer night. These include purple jerseys being worn during warm-ups (auctioned off after to raise money for cancer) and, for some teams, coordinated light shows, “purple carpets” where survivors walk the runway and tons of purple hockey gear. Many games include survivors with cancer appearing on the ice.
The result is a lot of happy children, and a flood of outrageously inspiring and heartwarming posts. Below, we’ve chosen some of the most inspiring highlights. We’re not crying, you’re crying.
8-Year-Old Leighton Joins The Coyotes
Hands down, one of the most touching moments this month came when 8-year-old Leighton Accardo, sitting at a conference table surrounded by photographers, signed a contract to “officially” join the Arizona Coyotes.
Welcome to the squad, Leighton! https://t.co/9SRSqkvHSY— NHL (@NHL) November 16, 2019
Daisy Romano Rings the Cancer Free Bell
Daisy Romano, a 16-year-old ovarian cancer survivor, rang the “cancer-free” bell in front of a stadium full of hockey fans in one of most heartwarming moments. Romano has been cancer-free since this past October.
— Penguins Foundation (@pensfoundation) November 17, 2019
2-Year-Old Graysen Drops the Puck
Graysen Hooper, the 2-year-old “affectionately known around the organization [the San Jose Sharks] as ‘Amazing Gray,‘” according to the NHL website, has been fighting Leukemia for almost a year. The daughter of two team employees, Heather and Patrick Hooper, Graysen “has successfully persevered through chemotherapy so far and moved from weekly to monthly treatments in September.”
Here, the toddler has a blast starting off the game.
— NHL (@NHL) November 16, 2019
10-Year Old Survivor Plays with the Devils
A 10-year-old brain cancer survivor named Grace was made to feel like family when she joined the New Jersey Devils on the ice in a red Devils’ jersey for a morning practice. The team tapped sticks on the ice as their coach introduced her. “Make her feel welcome,” he said, and then, turning to Grace, “You’re one of us today.”
You’re one of us, Grace!
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) November 18, 2019
The team cheered and hooted to celebrate the young survivor.
Panthers’ Brian Boyle on His Cancer Journey
Of course, some of the players are personally affected by cancer
Florida Panthers’ Brian Boyle, who announced in 2017 that he had been diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), a cancer of the white blood cells, answered a few questions about what this month means to him.
“Trying to raise-awareness and raise funds because, I’ve said it many times, I’m a beneficiary of that research and that money and everything that’s gone into that.”
— NHL (@NHL) November 16, 2019
“My treatments are so non-invasive that it doesn’t really change my day-to-day very much,” he continued. “It’s remarkable the breakthroughs that they’ve made and the still devastating the victims that cancer has taken. … So [the Hockey Fights Cancer game is] really a special night because of all the good that it can do.”
Mustaches for the Cause
Some NHL players got in the spirit in yet another way: They sported kooky, stick-on mustaches in a video to raise cancer awareness.
— NHL (@NHL) November 11, 2019
November has also become a big month for men’s health awareness (and a bad month for barbers) thanks to campaigns such as Movember and No-Shave November, which are raising funds and buzz.
Hockey Fights Cancer was founded by the National Hockey League® (NHL) and the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA). The campaign, according to the NHL website, has resulted in donations of more than $20 million to support the cancer programs of national and local cancer research institutions, children’s hospitals, player charities, and local charities.