BRENT SAIK: THE GREATEST GAME OF ALL

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.

    • Spydyr

      Yeah ditto and the big C word is a serious topic ….. Ruben thanks for the PSA.

      Was at the Kickoff Party this past weekend at a pub in Sherwood Park — had a chance to talk to a few of the players. Both ones who are first timers and ones who are vets.

      The easy ice breaker question was why are they doing it. They share Brent’s passion as an answer and each have their own story which in every case is personal but can apply to everyone.

      Ill be there too.

      • When my wife’s brother Arman was diagnosed last summer we were devastated. She immediately flew home to the Phillipines to see him.

        While she was gone, I phoned Dr. Tony Fields, who is a top-end adminstrator at the Cross Cancer Institute and somebody I knew from a story I’d written years before.

        He’s a very busy guy but he took the time to answer all my questions and provide some answers for me to pass along to Arman and his family. His compassion helped immensely.

        Every dollar that can be raised to support the work the ACF and CCI does is worth the effort.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I’ll be ponying up a $100 to support this great cause and history making event and I challenge all fellow ON’rs to match or beat!

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Having both colon and liver cancer on both sides of my family makes it very easy for me to open my wallet.

    Missed the kickoff party on the weekend, but did donate to a buddy that is playing.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Having both colon and liver cancer on both sides of my family makes it very easy for me to open my wallet.

    Missed the kickoff party on the weekend, but did donate to a buddy that is playing.

  • Hey Oilers Nation….heres another way you can help the WLHG Gang.

    We have applied for a Pepsi Refresh Grant looking to get the $100,000 grant.

    Heres the Link… http://www.refresheverything.ca/index/index

    This is a program where people vote and the most popular events get the cash. We arent the most popular and are sitting in 14th place — We need lots of support and daily votes to get to #1.

    People can vote daily and theres 21 days left to go.

    Sorry for the self promoting comment.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    It’d be great to see the CBC stop by and acknowledge their efforts this Saturday during Hockey Day in Canada…..Grapes?

    Had my own battle in 2004, for those who have had this experience know you’ll never meet finer medical professionals who are with you every step of the way. Don’t let the C word scare the life out of you, it’s not the same devastating illness it was 25 yrs ago.

    • I just e-mailed Elliotte Friedman and two senior producers at CBC to let them know about the game and what it’s all about. I’m waiting to hear back.

      These guys could make this go national in a hurry, Wouldn’t that be something?

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        Not that it’s huge, but I do remember Dreger forwarding along that tweet on the Pepsi thing a month or so ago. So I’d expect that at least some of the hockey media know about it.

        It should be national and it would be disappointing if CBC didn’t acknowledge it. Would it be that hard to show 2-3 minutes here and there during commercials breaks or intermissions?

  • Jodes

    I wish my father would have had the chance to use more of the facilities at the Cross Cancer, but because of his misdiagnosis, by time he finally went there they said there was nothing they could do. He was gone a few short months after. He was 67.

    It took him so fast I never truely said what was needed to be said, and for that, I despise this disease with all my heart and soul.

    There are time I was glad that he didn’t suffer much, but then there are the days where I think that if they would have dug a little deeper, he’d still be around..

    Funny thing is, what do I miss the most about my dad? Watching Oilers hockey with him. I know that may seem lame to some, but its one of the few things we really bonded over. It breaks my heart that he won’t be around to see whats coming.

    Anything that these guys can do to help so that someone’s elses son can continue to share those special times with their fathers, brothers, uncles, mothers, sisters, etc I’m 100% for.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to break down
    have a good cry.

  • Jodes

    I wish my father would have had the chance to use more of the facilities at the Cross Cancer, but because of his misdiagnosis, by time he finally went there they said there was nothing they could do. He was gone a few short months after. He was 67.

    It took him so fast I never truely said what was needed to be said, and for that, I despise this disease with all my heart and soul.

    There are time I was glad that he didn’t suffer much, but then there are the days where I think that if they would have dug a little deeper, he’d still be around..

    Funny thing is, what do I miss the most about my dad? Watching Oilers hockey with him. I know that may seem lame to some, but its one of the few things we really bonded over. It breaks my heart that he won’t be around to see whats coming.

    Anything that these guys can do to help so that someone’s elses son can continue to share those special times with their fathers, brothers, uncles, mothers, sisters, etc I’m 100% for.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to break down
    have a good cry.

  • Wax Man Riley

    Thank you Robin,
    As someone that has lost family to cancer as well as having friends battling breast cancer and a mother battling lung cancer, I thank you for helping promote this, and I thank Dr. Saik and all of the people out there that are helping raise money for treatment and a cure.

  • Wax Man Riley

    Wow I’m a blubbering fool right now. My mom has terminal skin cancer. She unfortunatly contracted a type of cancer that is uncureable. For now. There are drugs coming on the market as we speak. They are curing cancer as we sit here. They are doing it because people like this are raising the money needed for research. As much as everyone has been affected by cancer and how so many people wish there was a cure, i sit here knowing there is a cure for my moms cancer around the corner. Its extremely frustrating but the knowledge that if it isn’t found in time for her then others Will not have to go through it because people like her participated in trials for new drugs. Trials made possible by people making donations and donating their time to this cause.

    The reason I’m crying like a school girl is that i can hustling picture her face when i get home from work in Mcmurray this weekend and take her for one of our drives going nowhere and accidently stumble upon this game! I can’t wait.

    Thank you Robin for bringing this to my attention.

    And most of all thank you to the people that give so much of their time to this cause. You will always be remembered.

    (now time for a serious cry)

  • Wax Man Riley

    I think it is unbelievable that the players do this.

    Do they go ten days without sleeping or is there some sort of shift so they can sleep sometimes?

    How do they eat?

    • They play in shifts and grab food and sleep when they can.

      Those of you who are interested in all the details of how the game is actually played might want to listen and call in to Jason Gregor’s show on Wednesday. I think he plans to talk about it a bit then.

    • Jason Gregor

      You only play with five skaters and one sub during your “shift”…

      THe schedule normally goes like this…

      Play two hours…rest four hours…play two hours, rest four hours, play FOUR hours, rest eight hours…

      But with only 20 guys on one side, and you need seven for a shift (six skaters and a goalie), guys have to take an extra shift every 16 or so hours…and if a guy gets hurt, or frostbit, then it really becomes a challenge.

      If team white gets three injuries, no one from team Red can switch over to even it up. It gets tough when injuries/frostbite, twisted ankles set it.

      Eating is best part…There is tonnes of food out there…

  • Nice, I will take your challenge Mr Harlie.

    Hopefully everyone gives what they can. I even voted for the idea on the pepsi refresh page. If you can’t give, that’s pretty easy to do.

    I can’t imagine how gassed a guy would be after 10 days of hockey. I hope the weather cooperates with them, it was REALLY cold the last one I believe.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      The worse thing is that lots of these guys take off the time to play and have to work a day or even the next day after the event is over.

      I don’t care what you do for a living, but I know I’d want a couple days to do nothing once done. You know to deal with blister, frost bite and all the other issues that will come up with playing hockey in Edmonton in the winter for 10 days.

  • Peebos

    Nice read RB 🙂

    My next door neighbor is playing in this year’s game and I’m looking forward to getting out there with my family and his to visit and cheer everyone on.

    Hopefully CBC can pick this up as part of their Saturday triple-header coverage this weekend.

  • The Fish

    just finished adding my $100 to this very worthy cause. My spine tingled and the hair on my arms stood on end as I read a few stories on the donation site. Man, it feels good to contribute and I hope you all can do your part (no matter how big or small) and get that good feeling too!

    Also, my deepest condolences to those who have lost family or friends due to Cancer, and my best wishes and healthy good karma is being sent out to those who are currently fighting their battle right now.

  • The Fish

    well, not sure where my original post went but I just wanted to say that I stepped up this morning and did my $100 donation online at the link in Robin’s article.

    I also read a bit on that site and was really touched by some of the stories on there. It felt really really good to donate to this event and if you can help out in any way then you will feel how good it is to contribute.

    Also, my deepest condolences to those who have lost a loved one to Cancer and my best wishes to those who are currently battling Cancer.

    P.S – That’s awesome to hear that guys like Buck75 are stepping up to match or beat my donation! This is one instance where it will feel good to be bested at something!!

    Go get em guys. Open your hearts and open your wallets. Let’s make a difference!

  • The Fish

    An unbeleivable event that deserves way more coverage on a national if not international level. I have trouble getting through my 1.5 hour mens league games let alone a 10 day marathon. Everyone who has anything to do with this is a wonderful person that is making a real difference in this fight.