KENNEWICK -- The Tri-Cities Cancer Center treated 110 women last year for breast cancer. With early screenings, new technology and improved treatments, the survival rates are improving every year, according to the American Cancer Society.
"Women are being diagnosed at an earlier stage," said Cindy Miller, the community educator for the Tri-Cities Cancer Center. "With free screenings, we have an avenue in our community. The outlook is a lot brighter than it was a few years ago. With events like Pink Ice, we are able to provide services to our community from the community. We are lucky to have that."
The Tri-City Americans have done their part over the last five years, holding their annual Breast Cancer Awareness game. Tonight, the Seattle Thunderbirds will join the Americans for the event at Toyota Center.
Jamie Chase, a six-year breast cancer survivor from Kennewick, will drop the ceremonial puck.
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"It's amazing how the community hears breast cancer and everyone comes out to help," said Chase, who was diagnosed when she was 36 years old. "We are lucky we caught it early. I found it with a self-exam, and I had a friend push me to make an appointment. I thank God everyday that I did."
Chase, 42, said she gets checked every six months and that she has not had a reoccurrence. "I'm rolling with life," she said.
Over the last five years, the Americans have helped raise $70,554. The first year, the event brought in $2,825. Last year, that number hit $20,150.
Tonight, the ice will be pink, the Tri-City players will wear commemorative pink jerseys, and there will be pink T-shirt sales and silent auctions around the arena. The jerseys will be auctioned off during the game. All proceeds will benefit the Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation.
"It's obviously a special night," said Tri-City goaltender Drew Owsley, who is on the mend after suffering a knee injury two weeks ago. "A lot of people are affected by breast cancer and other cancers. It's nice to give back."
The Americans (36-18-2-2, 76 points) enter the game having lost three in a row at home and six of their last 10, including back-to-back home games to Spokane.
"Every team goes through this," Tri-City forward Carter Ashton said. "No team is perfect. We have to stick with it and turn it around this weekend."
Tonight is the first of three games this weekend for Tri-City, which is at Spokane on Saturday and at Vancouver on Sunday. Seattle (22-29-4-5, 53 points) is coming off a 5-1 road win over Spokane on Wednesday.
"Our division is really tough," Ashton said. "Everyone is a contender. Portland and Spokane are tough. To have Seattle beat Spokane helps us, but we have to worry about ourselves."
Tri-City general manager Bob Tory said the competition in the Western Conference is the best he has seen for quite a few years.
"The parity is unbelievable," Tory said. "It's not just the top three teams, but Vancouver, Kelowna and Everett have proven they can win on any given night."
The Americans, who already have Owsley and forwards Jordan Messier (shoulder) and Neal Prokop (leg) on the injured list, had forward Mason Wilgosh (knee) join them after Tuesday's game against Everett.
"We've come up short a few times, and as much as you want to win every game, we have to focus on getting healthy for the playoffs," Tory said.
The Americans, who had to return backup goaltender Cam Gorchynski to the Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL) on Wednesday, are bringing in Chase Martin to back up Chris Driedger this weekend. Martin had been playing for the Cowichan Valley Capitals (BCHL), who narrowly missed the playoffs.
Notes: Medicine Hat's Linden Vey is the first player in the WHL is reach 100 points this season. Vey, the younger brother of former Americans forward Shaun Vey, has 40 goals and 60 assists. ... Monday's WHL game between Calgary and Regina at Calgary's McMahon Stadium set a junior hockey attendance record of 20,888.
* Annie Fowler: 582-1574; email@example.com