GVSU men’s DIII club hockey to host 3rd annual ‘Hockey Fights Cancer’ event

GVL / Courtesy - GVSU Sports Information

GVL / Courtesy – GVSU Sports Information

D'Angelo Starks

Three years ago, the Grand Valley State men’s Division III club hockey forward Alex Bjork noticed that Aquinas College had been hosting an annual event called “Hockey Fights Cancer,” a game where the team raises money and awareness for the Van Andel Institute for cancer research. 

Bjork had also recently lost his grandfather to cancer. With his now deeply rooted connection with the illness, Bjork had the idea to contact Aquinas to find out how the event could be replicated here at GVSU. 

Aquinas put Bjork in contact with the Van Andel Institute, and from there he was able to move forward in the planning of the game. The team held the inaugural event that same year, 2016, and managed to raise around $1,500.

The tradition continues this Saturday, Jan. 27, at the Georgetown Ice Center as the DIII team will be hosting its third annual Hockey Fights Cancer game. They will be taking on Hope College at 4:30 p.m. The game will also serve as Senior Night to celebrate the careers of those graduating in April 2018.

Anna Walz, a marketing professor in the Seidman College of Business, will be dropping the puck prior to the game. Walz took last semester off after being diagnosed with breast cancer, which she is still battling today. Walz returned to teaching one class this semester, and Bjork happens to be in her class. She told the class about herself and her story, which inspired Bjork to approach her about participating in the event. 

The event has grown steadily since the first game two years ago. The team went from raising $1,500 year one to $3,000 the next year. They are now quickly approaching $4,000 this year, and the game hasn’t even happened yet. They are raising money through the selling of T-shirts around campus and through a website called CrowdRise. On the website, there are pictures of every player and a person they have decided to play the game in honor of. Those looking to donate can check out their website at www.crowdrise.com/GVSUClubHockeyFightsCancer2018

“I just want to thank everybody that’s been involved in this, whether it’s the players on the team, people buying shirts or donating money online or coming to the game,” Bjork said. “A lot of people have hands in making this work, and I’m very thankful for the help I’ve had.”

Giving back to the community has been a major focal point for this team, as this year they have also done a Brain Cancer Awareness Game, their Salute to the Troops game and a special needs hockey game. Community service is something that head coach Charlie Link has always found important to instill within his student athletes.

“I’ve always done stuff for the community through coaching because I think it’s very important for young adults to get out there and see what’s really going on,” Link said. “Alex Bjork and the rest of this team has taken it and ran with it.”

Bjork encourages other players or teams to get out there and try to give back. 

“That was one of my other main goals in doing this: Hopefully people can see that it is very easy to get going,” Bjork said. “The Van Andel Institute is very easy to work with, and it shows that you don’t have to be a superstar to make an impact.”