The old saying is there’s no cheering from the press box, but there’s one hockey game that’s exempt from that, and it starts at the Sherwood Park acreage of Dr. Brent Saik this Friday.
It’s billed as the World’s Longest Hockey Game, and it’s been recognized as such by the Guinness Book of World Records after being staged in 2003, 2005 and again in 2008, when Saik and a group of intrepid and stunningly courageous people played for 241 hours and 25 minutes, or 10 straight days.
In doing so, Saik and his supporters generated more than $558,000 in donations, raising their contribution to the Alberta Cancer Foundation in support of the Cross Cancer Institute to over $1 million when added to the $150,000 raised in 2003 and $350,000 in 2005.
Starting Friday, Saik will again be among a group of 40 players who’ll brave bitter cold and mind-numbing fatigue on an outdoor rink at a site that’s become known as Saiker’s Acres in an effort to establish a new record and raise $1 million in the process.
If you haven’t yet seen it, I urge you find the time after it starts Friday to make your way out there — 52269 RR 220 — and witness it first-hand. This is one game, one display of everything that is good about the human spirit, that will grab your heart and never let go. How can it not?
It will change your life, and the lives of others.
PLAYING FOR KEEPS
If you don’t know Saik, he’s an optometrist by trade and the president of the Alberta Sports Vision Institute. He’s the team optometrist for the Edmonton Oilers, so he’s a hockey guy at heart. His reason for staging the game, however, has little to do with what Saik does for a living and everything to do with who he is.
Saik lost his dad, Terry, to colon cancer in 1994. In June of 2003, a brain tumour took his wife, Susan. Pictures of Terry and Susan, and other loved ones lost to cancer, are affixed to sheets of plywood that protect the bench area at his outdoor rink.
If you go to the Alberta Cancer Foundation website at http://albertacancer.ca/page.aspx?pid=933 you can learn more about the event and you’ll see an interview with Saik, who is asked how difficult it is to take on the challenge of playing hockey for 10 straight days. In it, he says:
"How hard? That’s where I get emotional, I guess," Saik says. "People ask me that all the time. It’s not actually that hard, which is the answer.
"It’s battling cancer, which is actually a lot harder, so that’s what we always revert back to. This is nothing. If you were staring at a death sentence of six months and you have to wake up every morning, that’s tough."
SHOW THEM YOU CARE
Who among us hasn’t lost somebody we love to cancer? My mom was only 48, four years younger than I am now, when it took her. My wife’s brother, Arman, is battling pancreatic cancer now. Cancer took my cousin Judy and my uncle Arthur. Who reading this hasn’t been touched by it? Who doesn’t know the stakes of this game?
I’ve been out to Saiker’s Acres several times during the games. I went out early one morning during a brutal cold snap that plagued the first two days of the game in 2008 to lend moral support. You have no idea what it means to Saik and the people playing the game to have somebody stop by to cheer them on.
Nine days later, I took my son, Sam, and my wife. Sam, two at the time, was there when the game ended, when Saik and the rest of the players finally staggered off the ice to the embrace and cheers of loved ones and supporters. The sight of it will fill your heart.
Sports anchor Kevin Karius will play again this year. Jason Gregor, who is more generous with his time and has a bigger heart than you will ever know, has played in the game. Dustin Nielson of TEAM 1260 will give it a go this time around.
Visit the Alberta Cancer Foundation website to find out more about the event. Donate if you can. As important, make the time and go out and witness the game for yourself. Think about Terry Saik and Susan Saik and all the people like them who cannot be there. Cheer them on and let them know how much what they’re doing matters to you.
You will never, ever forget it.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.