At 25, Shaun Vey's world was pretty perfect. He had a beautiful wife, a good job and plans to start a family.
But a discovery in February -- testicular cancer -- turned the former Tri-City Americans player's world upside down.
"You think 'you are 25, you just finished a competitive hockey career and you think you have the world by the tail,' " said Vey, who now lives in Warman, Saskatchewan.
"But when you start reading about it, guys healthier than me have had this," he said. "A lot of research shows they are young men, they are just afraid to say anything about it. I need to speak up."
He will speak up this week when the Americans play host to the inaugural Shaun Vey Aware Down There Night on Friday, playing the Regina Pats at the Toyota Center in Kennewick, to benefit the Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation.
Vey and his wife, Robyn, will arrive in the area Wednesday night. Their week is booked with visits to the Tri-Cities Cancer Center, TV interviews and other events before the game.
"As one of our own, I thought we needed to take care of him," said Dan Mulhausen, vice president of business operations and marketing communications for the Americans. "I asked if he would be willing to talk about it and we pieced it together after that.
"He is going to be very busy when he's here. We are trying to maximize the exposure for the cause. The big thing is the funds raised will stay local."
The cancer center appreciates Vey's willingness to step up and be a voice for the cause.
"It's so great," said Elizabeth McLaughlin, director of the cancer center's foundation. "We were talking around (the office) how men don't want to talk about it. If they notice changes or feel something that is different, they need to say something. When you catch it early, you can live and have a full and happy life."
Tickets for Friday's game can be purchased at the cancer center for $10 through Thursday. Fans also can call 737-3413, pay for their tickets over the phone and pick them up at a later date.
A portion of the ticket price will be donated to the cancer center to help increase awareness of testicular cancer.
There also will be drawings for gift baskets, Americans' memorabilia and a Movember-inspired photo booth at Friday's game.
Movember is a annual monthlong event that involves growing mustaches during November to raise awareness for men's health issues, including cancer.
Atomic Screen Printing donated 100 Aware Down There T-shirts that will be available for $10. All of the proceeds will go to the Cancer Center Foundation.
In addition, all three Mid-Columbia Papa John's locations will donate 20 percent from sales to the Cancer Center Foundation in Vey's name from 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Vey will be at the Papa John's on Gage in Richland during that time, while other Americans players will be at the other locations.
"For us, the Americans are the most generous organization," said McLaughlin, who noted there will be pamphlets on testicular cancer available at the game. "We can't thank them enough. We hope to make this an annual event."
Vey was showering after a men's league hockey game when he noticed one testicle was much larger than the other and rock hard. He mentioned it to his wife when he got home.
"I told my wife it was probably nothing," Vey said. "If not for her, I would have waited. At the time I was a little embarrassed."
Robyn made an appointment for her husband the next day and he had surgery two weeks later. It took a couple of weeks to get the verification the doctor already suspected.
Testicular cancer is rare compared to other cancers, but it is the most common cancer among American males ages 15 and 34, according to the Mayo Clinic. If found early, the cure rate is around 95 percent.
In Vey's case, he was diagnosed early and surgery was the only treatment needed. He will be cancer-free for almost a year when they welcome their first baby in January.
If ignored, the cancer can spread to the lymph nodes in the abdomen and other parts of the body, most commonly the lungs, liver, bones and brain.
"If you can be a voice and save a young man's life, you need to do that," Vey said. "I grew up in the Tri-City organization and by the time I was 20, I was a leader on the team. That experience has helped me become who I am. When I talk about (testicular cancer) to young men, they are a little embarrassed, but when they see that I'm not, they are more receptive."
Vey took part in the Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life last summer, with his Aware Down There team raising $14,980.
Former Americans teammate and Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price and his wife, Angela, donated $500 to the cause.
"They have been really supportive," Vey said of the Prices. "You can't say enough about him. He has the most high profile job in hockey, but he is so humble. He is the same caring guy I played with in Tri."
Other former teammates also have reached out to Vey, and with the Americans holding an awareness night in his honor, he has been overwhelmed by the support.
"It speaks volumes of the organization," Vey said. "Not only for me, but for men's health. It shows they care about their players, not only when they are there, but after they leave. That means a lot."
w Annie Fowler: 582-1574; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: tchicequeen