GVSU men’s DIII hockey raises over $5K in ‘Hockey Fights Cancer’ event against Hope College

GVL / Dylan McIntyre. Saturday, January 27, 2018. Grand Valley D3 vs Hope college for GVSU Fights Cancer.

GVL / Dylan McIntyre. Saturday, January 27, 2018. Grand Valley D3 vs Hope college for “GVSU Fights Cancer”.

Robbie Triano

At a glance, the Grand Valley State men’s club Division III hockey game against Hope College may have appeared as just another game on the schedule. 

But in actuality, the magnitude of the contest was much more than just a “game.”

The Lakers hosted their third annual “Hockey Fights Cancer” event in an attempt to raise money and awareness for those affected by all kinds of cancer on Saturday, Jan. 27, at the Georgetown Ice Center.

All of the proceeds from ticket, T-shirt and bracelet sales—along with donations—went toward the Van Andel Institute for cancer research. Each GVSU player also wore a special purple jersey, with an individualized reason/person for which/whom they were fighting against cancer.

Along with their fundraising campaign, GVSU also added a pre-game “Senior Night” celebration, highlighting their six seniors and their families with some of their favorite moments during their collegiate careers. Those seniors were Jack Lindsay, Mark Janiga, Ethan Doyle, Derek Simon, Corey Smith and captain Alex Bjork.

Although the Division II team gets the majority of the acclaim for their national success, the senior class has paved a new legacy for the Division III hockey program, according to head coach Charlie Link. 

“The players did a great about organizing things,” Link said. “This is our fourth fundraising event of the year, and they did it with the highest level of class. Replacing this group is going to be one tough act to follow. They put a whole lot of effort into the community, and that’s what we want to do moving forward.”

Leading the planning and organization of the event was Bjork, who modeled the event off Aquinas College’s very own “Hockey Fights Cancer.” In the team’s third consecutive year hosting the event, Bjork believes this one was the best of them all.

“It was just really cool to see all the support and the fans getting into it,” Bjork said. “Not only did we raise a ton of money coming into the game, but our guys really jumped on helping out and spreading word earlier than ever this year.”

The preparation paid off, as the Lakers raised more than $5,000 before the game began, blowing past last year’s record of $3,000 and their first year total of $1,500. The final total donation amount has yet to be released by the team.

GVSU marketing professor Anna Walz, who is currently battling breast cancer after being diagnosed at the beginning of the fall 2017 semester, came out on the ice with her family to be honored with the ceremonial puck drop. After the announcer told her story, Walz and her family were greeted with gift baskets from both teams and a standing ovation from a packed crowd.

“Hockey is a great thing, but there’s more to life than just that,” Bjork said. “What I care about the most is that we take the time to use our platform and give back any way we can.”

However, the Lakers dropped the contest after Hope College scored two straight goals late in the final period to steal the win. But for coach Link, he couldn’t get too angry with his team’s play.

“We needed to have a consistent effort for all 60 minutes of the game, but the impact this team has created to our community is unlike any other,” Link said.

Even with the loss, the Lakers’ record still stands at an impressive 25-6-0 overall standing, with only two regular-season contests against Adrian College remaining before playoffs. That weekend series starts Saturday, Feb. 3, at the Georgetown Ice Center.