Friday, 24 April 2015

Rally for Smuk gains momentum again

Cody Smuk gets set to drop the puck for a ceremonial faceoff.
    Losing is not an option for Cody Smuk and his family and friends.
    Since his Cancer diagnosis in May of last year, the former member of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men's hockey team and his supporters have put up a fight that has been worthy of winning the Stanley Cup. With the latest challenge in that battle, Smuk and his supporters are showing they will go beyond even that effort to win this fight.
    At first, Smuk was diagnosed with testicular cancer, and he had a tumour in his right lung that was causing concern. His friends and family rallied.
    Last June, his girlfriend and now fiancée Stephanie Vause and her sister, Leah (Vause) Lewis, set up a profile for Smuk on the website to raise funds to help with expenses during his cancer treatments. Over $20,000 was raised in a three-day period.
    The cancer battle took an upward swing. Smuk, who stands 5-foot-11, completed his original chemotherapy treatments on Aug. 11, 2014, and good news kept coming back from subsequent visits to the doctor for the man that played in the WHL with the Chilliwack Bruins, Lethbridge Hurricanes and Moose Jaw Warriors.
    Things were going so good that in November of 2014 Smuk donated $10,000 from the money to Choc 'la Cure, which raises fund for equipment for the Saskatoon Cancer Centre. He also had surgery to remove the tumour in his right lung that month and optimism was high that the cancer battle was about to be won.
    Then, the next setback came. Shortly before Christmas of last year, Smuk was informed the tumour that was removed had evidence of uniqueness to it. He discovered he was dealing with another type of cancer that was usually found in children, and there were signs that the tumour that used to be in his right lung was growing back.
Cody Smuk drops the puck for a ceremonial faceoff before a Huskies game.
    In response, both the men's and women's Huskies hockey teams held fundraising game nights in January for cancer fighting charities in Smuk's honour. He dropped the puck for a ceremonial faceoff before a men's hockey game between the Huskies and University of Alberta Golden Bears on Jan. 31.
    Last Sunday, more tough news followed. Smuk's family announced the treatment plan for the 25-year-old had changed. The hard working and team first forward on the ice found out the tumour in the right side of his chest was having a mixed response to three months of chemotherapy treatments.
    Doctors also said the tumour was inoperable because of its mass and location in Smuk's chest. As a result of this news, Smuk will seek alternative treatments in place of chemotherapy.
    Smuk and Vause are departing for Germany on Sunday, where Smuk will undergo a vaccine treatment. Doctors there plan to boost Smuk's immune system by taking a sample of the tumour in his chest and create a vaccine for it. Other treatments will be decided upon once Smuk arrives.
    The treatments and trips add up to an expensive cost, and Smuk's family was once again engaged with fundraising through the account hoping to hit a goal of raising $100,000.
Cody Smuk and Stephanie Vause watch a Huskies game.
    In November of 2014, the account sat at $33,000. Last Monday, the account sat with just over $40,000. On Friday as the lunch hour neared, the account had grown to just over $80,000.
    A large number of current and past members of various Huskies teams and the Warriors spread news of Smuk's situation through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. A steak night fundraiser has been planned for 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 4, at the Kinsmen/Henk Ruys Soccer Centre for when Smuk returns to Saskatoon. Tickets will be $25 for adults and $15 for children, but a date for when ticket sales are to start is still to be determined.
    Smuk has always been a likable and community minded person. During his cancer battle, he has tried to spread the work about others who are also enduring their own fights with the disease.
    Through the journey, Smuk and Vause have remained positive and upbeat, which in itself has been inspiring for family and friends. Smuk won't quit and his supporters won't give in until this battle is won in spite of any obstacle that comes along the way. They want to ensure this heartwarming story has a positive and inspiring outcome.
    For those looking to donate to Smuk's account, they can do so by clicking here.

Stars stars capture Esso Cup awards

Sophie Shirley (#8) was named the MVP of the Esso Cup tournament.
    The accolades keep pouring in for Saskatoon Stars forwards Sophie Shirley and Nara Elia.
    The two standouts captured big honours at the Esso Cup female midget AAA national championship tournament taking place in Red Deer, Alta. On Friday, Shirley was named the tournament's most valuable player and won the top scorer award piling up seven goals and six assist in the preliminary round. Elia was named the most sportsmanlike player, while recording four goals and five assists.
    Karli Shell of the Sudbury Lady Wolves took home honours as the event's top forward, her teammate Danika Ranger was named the top goaltender and Tamara McVannel of the Central Plains Capitals, who are based out of Portage la Prairie, was named the top defensive player.
Nara Elia was name the Esso Cup's most sportsmanlike player.
    The Stars finished second after the round robin portion of the six-team tournament in second place with a 4-1 record. They opened the tournament last Sunday falling to the Lady Wolves 4-1, but proceeded to roll off four straight wins.
    During their current four-game winning streak, the Stars downed the Capitals 3-2 on Monday, the Edmonton Thunder 5-3 on Tuesday, the Red Deer Chiefs 3-2 on Wednesday and the Moncton Rockets 7-1 on Thursday.
    Saskatoon faces host Red Deer (2-2-1) in one semifinal tonight at 7 p.m. Saskatchewan time. The other semifinal, which is set for 3:30 p.m. Saskatchewan time, features the Lady Wolves (4-1) taking on the Capitals (2-1-0-2).
    The Esso Cup concludes on Saturday with a bronze medal game set for 12 p.m. Saskatchewan time and the gold medal final set for 3:30 p.m. Saskatchewan time. The gold final will be broadcast on TSN5.

Ferland's feel good story

Michael Ferland, centre, shown on TV on the Flames bench.
    It is safe to say that former Saskatoon Blades forward Michael Ferland has become one of the top feel good stories of the NHL playoffs.
    Now a member of the Calgary Flames, the 23-year-old product of Swan River, Man., celebrated his one-year sobriety anniversary on March 27. He opened up to the Calgary media about his journey to quit drinking on his sobriety anniversary day and big support poured in from Flames fans in Calgary ever since.
    During the playoffs, Ferland, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 215 pounds, has developed an even larger fan following after developing into a power forward that lays out all sorts of bone-crunching hits. As the Flames built a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven opening round series with the Vancouver Canucks, Ferland has talked often about his story to the media and continues to be a prime choice as a post-game interview candidate due to his play. The Flames will try to eliminate the Canucks in Game 6 on Saturday in Calgary.
    Ferland has recorded an assist, a plus-two rating in the plus-minus department and 21 penalty minutes in Calgary's five post-season games, but his impact on the forecheck has been huge. His physical play has become more pronounced than it was in his WHL days with the Blades and Brandon Wheat Kings, where he had 88 goals, 123 assists and 301 penalty minutes in 215 career regular season games.
    Ferland split time in the regular season between the NHL Flames and their American Hockey League affiliate in Adirondack. In total, he played 26 regular season games with the NHL Flames collecting two goals, three assists, a plus-one rating and 16 penalty minutes.
    He has received huge credit for his success in his quest to stay sober. The Flames organization itself should be given huge credit too.
    Shortly before he quit drinking, Ferland, who was selected in the fifth round and 133rd overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by Calgary, broke down and opened up about his battles during a one-on-one meeting with Calgary head coach Bob Hartley. The Flames proceeded to give Ferland the help he needed. Since the Flames took that action, Ferland has taken off.
    It is safe to say there are still far too many professional sports teams that wouldn't have done what the Flames did, and it is conceivable to believe a number of other NHL teams would have released Ferland. That observation likely holds true with the everyday working world, which is also unfortunate.
    Hopefully one day what Ferland and Flames did will be the norm and not the exception.
    I was also able to interview Ferland for a story for the Saskatoon Express before the NHL playoffs started, and that piece can be found right here.

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