Friday, 26 June 2015

Smuk’s cancer battle brought out the best in Saskatoon

Cody Smuk 1989-2015

Cody Smuk at the Rutherford Rink on Jan. 30, 2015.
    If life success is determined by how many friends you have, Cody Smuk died a very rich young man.
    The hard-working, team-first former forward with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team succumbed to a battle with cancer that lasted over a year early Thursday morning. He just turned 26 back on May 11.
    Smuk was living proof about how much the glue guy matters.
    As news spread about his passing, those that knew him quickly flocked to social media to post tributes. Even those in Saskatoon that didn’t know Smuk personally or didn’t follow the Huskies knew Smuk’s story and were sad to hear about his death.
    He grew up playing minor hockey in Saskatoon and moved on to spend four seasons in the WHL with the Chilliwack Bruins, Lethbridge Hurricanes and Moose Jaw Warriors. No matter where the stop was, Smuk was always one of the most popular players on the team he suited up for.
    That didn’t change when he returned to Saskatoon to play four seasons with the Huskies. Smuk was never the offensive star. He netted six goals and 14 assists in 89 career regular season games with the Huskies.
    Due to the fact he was good natured, easy going and genuine, he easily became one of the most popular players on his own team and amongst all teams that are part of the Huskies program.
    The man who always had a smile on his face ended up dating Stephanie Vause from the Huskies track team and the two were engaged to be married at the time of Smuk’s death.
    Because of his strong qualities of character, Saskatoon as a city and the hockey community at large repeatedly rallied for Smuk, when his diagnosis of testicular and lung cancer came out about two months after he helped the Huskies win a silver medal at the University Cup national championship tournament in March of 2014.
Cody Smuk drops the puck for a ceremonial faceoff on Jan. 30, 2015.
    Over the past 12 months, just over $116,000 was raised to support Smuk on a website page. Whenever Smuk encountered a serious challenge, the community responded with a surge of donations, which started with a $20,000 gusher over three days after the page was established in June of 2014.
    All sorts of people started sporting “Get Smuk’d Cancer” bracelets in another show of support.
    On Jan. 30, Smuk received a standing ovation at a packed Rutherford Rink, when he dropped the puck for a ceremonial faceoff before a men’s hockey match between the Huskies and the rival U of Alberta Golden Bears. It was one of the most heartwarming moments to ever take place inside the 85-year-old rink. Just under $3,500 was raised for the Saskatchewan branch of the Canadian Cancer Society through a Marty’s Men fundraiser put on by the Huskies.
    When Smuk departed for Germany with Vause, his father Marty and mother Darla, to seek alternative treatment on April 26, about 100 people turned out on an early snowing Sunday morning to give the group a big send off at the John G. Diefenbaker International Airport. If you were there, you definitely could feel a great community vibe.
    That vibe returned at a steak night fundraiser that was held for Smuk at the Kinsmen/Henk Ruys Soccer Centre on June 4. This gathering included a number of current NHL players from the area in Luke and Brayden Schenn, Darcy Kuemper and Linden Vey. There were also a tonne of great characters that have character on hand who became friends with Smuk during his time in the WHL and the Huskies.
Cody Smuk and Stephanie Vause, centre, watch the Huskies in Nov. 2014.
    There was a huge and a very cool collection of silent auction items up for grabs including signed jerseys by Jonathan Toews, Tyler Ennis and George Reed. Washington Capitals goaltender and Saskatoon Blades graduate Braden Holtby contributed five big items including two signed game jerseys.
    Vause and Marty Smuk were in attendance and were visibly uplifted that night. Cody Smuk himself still hadn’t returned from Germany.
    Who knew this would be the last public gathering held to support Smuk, while he was still alive.
    After always approaching his cancer battle with an incredible upbeat attitude, Smuk’s condition deteriorated quickly this week leading up this his passing away on Thursday. On Friday, a tribute sign went up for Smuk in front of the Rutherford Rink reading “Rest easy Cody.” A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, June 30 at 2 p.m. at Elim Church.
    For one that always played with a huge heart on the ice, Smuk helped show how big of a community heart Saskatoon can have off the ice.

Valkyries and Riot near biggest clash ever

Marci Kiselyk zips downfield for the Valkyries.
    Believe it or not, the Saskatchewan Roughriders regular season opener at Mosaic Stadium isn’t the biggest football related thing on everyone’s mind in the wheat province.
    On Sunday at 2 p.m. at Mosaic Stadium, the Saskatoon Valkyries battle the host Regina Riot in what is to date the biggest clash between the Western Women’s Canadian Football League powerhouse clubs. For the fifth straight year, the two clubs are facing off in the Prairie Conference Final. While the Valkyries took the previous four meetings on their way to winning four straight league titles, this meeting might be the most up in the air head-to-head match between these two clubs.
    “We love to play Regina, and we love to play in good football games,” said veteran Valkyries receiver Marci Kiselyk. “We love playoff games. We’re really excited to get out there on Sunday and see what we can do.”
    The Valkyries and Riot each posted 3-1 regular season records and split their two head-to-head games. The Riot held the standings tiebreaker outscoring the Valkyries 68-37 in the two games.
    In the last meeting between these teams, the Riot bombed the Valkyries 49-9 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    “We really want to redeem ourselves,” said Kiselyk. “We really want to play the way that we know that we can.
    “It stung for a while, and you have to move past it. Football is a game of ups and downs. If a play doesn’t go your way, you have to rebound and be ready go on the next one.”
    The WWCFL’s Western Conference Final will see the Calgary Rage travel to Edmonton to take on the Storm at Jasper Place. Both teams were 2-2 in the regular season.
    The league title game between the two conference winners is set for July 4 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg.

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