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Breast Cancer Awareness hits home for Lopes Men’s Hockey team

October 11, 2017

Friday’s awareness event at Gila River Arena means much more than just hockey game

By: Jim Howell/GCU Club Sports Information Director

For fans of the Grand Canyon University Men’s Hockey team, Friday’s Breast Cancer Awareness Night at Gila River Arena in Glendale is a chance to become more aware of a disease that will afflict an estimated 300,000 females over the next year.

For many of the team members, Breast Cancer Awareness isn’t an event. It’s something they live with every day.

“My mom’s going through it right now,” said Lopes’ goalie Michael Norris. “It’s definitely in the back of your mind when you’re used to seeing her, but sometimes she can’t always be there to watch because she’s too sick to leave the house.”

Norris is far from the only Lope to experience the power of the disease firsthand.

“It’s affected a lot of people in my family-especially on my mom’s side,” said Lopes’ center Luke Wilson. “Her brother’s wife died from it in April 2016.”

Their head coach counts several others on the Lopes’ roster that have been gripped by it in one way or another. “It’s one of those things where just about everybody that knows someone who’s immediate to them, or has a friend that they know that has it or has had it,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Danny Roy.  “They will all have someone Friday night that they will be thinking of.”

Roy has to count himself among those on the list who are directly affected.

“In high school, my dad’s cousin got breast cancer, and it was pretty hard to watch, since she was really close to our family,” said Roy. “She was able to survive it, but still has to stay on top of it.  Her two sisters also went through it.  More recently, my mother-in-law just went through surgery for it.  It’s a much more manageable case, but you can see how much it’s affected her life trying to recover from that.  It’s rough on them, and it’s also rough to be that person who has to watch it happen.”

According to the American Cancer Society, while one in eight women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime, there are 3.1 million survivors of the disease. That number continues to climb thanks to awareness from events like Friday’s 7:30 p.m. matchup between the Lopes and Arizona State University’s Division II team.  Roy has been tirelessly promoting the game and the event for weeks now, not just to the GCU campus and hockey fans, but to their rivals for that night as well.

And for good reason.

“I can guarantee you that Arizona State will actively participate in this, since I know they have players on that roster who know someone that either survived the fight, is going through it now, or unfortunately lost that battle.”

While some events during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month can seem endless, this one will stand out for the Lopes’ players and coaches. They hope it will make as much of an impact as what proved to be the inspiration for them to hold this event:  a road game against Northern Arizona University last year in Prescott.

“At that time, I wasn’t aware of how much it affected our entire lineup,” said Roy. “But once I saw the names that players were painting on the ice (in memory of those afflicted), I realized that every single player either knew someone, or if they didn’t, they called their parents to ask them whose name they should write.”

For Wilson, that night was an immediate connection. “I put (my aunt’s name) on the ice, and I wound up scoring in that game, and I know that was a big factor.  I definitely know she was up there watching that game.”

Even though the game is at the Arizona Coyotes’ home arena, admission is still free for the 7:30PM matchup, and ACS representatives will be on hand to talk with those who want more information. To the Lopes, that bigger stage lends the opportunity to get more fans than usual to the event, and more fans means more awareness about what’s really important.  “It’s not about the hockey game.  It’s about those that are fighting breast cancer,” said Wilson.  “We should be the ones standing up for them, and giving them the best shot they can to survive it.  Cancer sucks.”