DENVER (CBS4) – An avid Colorado Avalanche fan was able to take the ice with his favorite players before they took on the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night. It all happened during the team’s annual “Hockey Fights Cancer” game. The campaign is supported by all 31 NHL teams and has raised more than $20 million for cancer research since its start in 1998.
Seven months ago, Eric McPhail could never have imagined what he got to do Saturday night.
Alongside five other cancer survivors, he suited up in full-gear and skated on the ice for starting lineups as the announcer called his name. Each survivor wore personalized, lavender-colored Avalanche jerseys, the league’s designated color to represent all cancers.
“Everybody knows somebody,” McPhail said. “So, for them to acknowledge it and help out some of those families and hopefully find a cure is huge.”
McPhail’s journey started when he noticed a nagging hip pain in March. While he first thought it was a ski injury, then a bladder infection, doctor’s at UCHealth in Denver diagnosed him with a sarcoma in his abdomen.
Soon, the husband and father of two started treatment.
“I had three rounds of chemo, administered a 21-day cycle with that, 25 days of radiation, and surgery,” McPhail described.
In all that time, McPhail and his hockey-crazed family leaned on the Avs.
“It kept my mind off of things being able to watch a little playoff hockey,” He said. “It was nice.”
McPhail also often talked about hockey and the Avalanche to his doctors, so one of them eventually nominated him to take part in the Hockey Fights Cancer ceremony before the Avalanche faced off against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
McPhail was the third survivor to take the ice.
“After three rounds of chemo, radiation, and surgery, his first post-op scan earlier this week was clear!” the PA announcer said.
In the stands, McPhail’s wife, Christie, and children, Fiona and Ian, took it all in.
“It feels amazing, and we’re both so proud of him,” said Fiona. “It’s been a long journey, but he did it.”
After the ceremony, all of the cancer survivors and their families were able to stay and watch the game.
“As a survivor we remember everybody who stood behind us and helped us out and it’s huge,” McPhail said. “It really is huge and it makes this disease more fight-able.”
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