Before there was a Tri-Cities Cancer Center, the Tri-City Americans were raising funds to help bring the project to life.
On Jan. 18, 1992, the Americans players and coaches acted as waiters at the “Waiter! There’s a Puck in my Soup” benefit to raise money to help build the $1.5 million facility. The event raised about $6,000, the Cancer Center was built and now is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary.
The Americans continue to support the Cancer Center Foundation via their annual Breast Cancer Awareness Game, which is tonight vs. the Prince Albert Raiders. Over the past eight years, the event has raised $136,899, including a record $22,824 last year.
“They helped build this center and now they help sustain it,” said Elizabeth McLaughlin, the Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation Director. “That is really cool. For them to have done that and the number of people they have impacted is something special. They cared enough to put on this night and make a difference. The Americans help a lot of causes, not just us. They bring a lot of value to the community.”
Several Americans players toured the Cancer Center on Monday. Goalie Eric Comrie said the experience was humbling.
“We are so lucky to come to rink every day and just be healthy,” Comrie said. “It was a great experience for us to see that the Tri-Cities has such a great cancer center. How much the Tri-City Americans have helped raise for them is outstanding.
“We are lucky to play in the Western Hockey League. We learn to give back to the community. A lot of teenagers don’t have that opportunity. It makes people on this team not only become great hockey players, but become great human beings.”
Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said the team’s community involvement pays dividends for his players, as well as the community.
“They are terrific young men, that is the most important thing,” Hiller said. “These experiences all over the community help broaden them as people. All those experiences help our players and I hope in turn, they are able to provide some hope and inspiration to the people they touch.”
The Raiders have been a part of the Americans’ annual Breast Cancer Awareness Game in the past.
Tri-City, which is 6-2 on pink ice, topped Prince Albert 5-2 in 2008, and with a playoff spot within their grasp, the Americans would like to repeat history tonight.
“We have to play better in our own zone without the puck than we have the last couple of games,” Hiller said. “The frustrating part to that is last week we played very well in our own zone without the puck. We know how to do it. We need to make sure we do that (tonight), in what is a special night of the year.”
The Americans (27-27-3-3, 60 points) are coming off a road trip where they earned three of a possible 10 points. They have a precious two-point lead over Prince George for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“This is the time of year — you talk about it in September and October, but it doesn’t seem as desperate as it is now, even though the points are worth the same,” said Hiller of his team’s struggles this season. “Now, it is desperation time. We are fighting for our lives to stay in. Prince Albert is in the same boat. It will be a good game.”
The Raiders (28-28-2-2, 60 points), which beat Spokane 4-1 on Wednesday in the first game of their five-game swing through the U.S. Division, are eighth in the Eastern Conference. They have the same amount of points as Red Deer, but have a game-in-hand on the Rebels.
“They have some really high-end players we have to be aware of,” Hiller said. “There are no easy games, particularly this season. We have to be ready.”
Notes: The Cancer Center will be selling pink T-shirts tonight for $7 and they range in sizes up to 4X. ... There also will be a large selection of silent auction items up for grabs and the players’ pink game-worn jerseys will be auctioned off during the game. The buy-it-now price is $750.