The Rochester Grizzlies of the NA3HL are following in the footsteps of their NAHL sibling, the Austin Bruins, and holding their inaugural Pink In The Rink Night on Saturday when they face Breezy Point at 7:05 p.m. at the Rochester Recreation Center. Cancer has affected many of the Grizzlies’ players, in different ways.
Here are the stories of five Grizzlies’ players, as told to the Post Bulletin:
Lukas Jenkins: Remembering my hero
My grandpa, Ron Tryce – my mom’s dad – had two daughters, never had a son. He was a very big part of my life; I was kind of like the son he never had. He got me into hockey, came to every game, no matter how far the drive. He was my biggest supporter.
When I was in fifth grade, I found out he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He fought it for four years before he ended up passing away. It was tough on me and my family.
When he was first diagnosed, I understood what it was. My mom had a tough time with it, too. She told my dad and he told me. I was pretty upset. We lived right across the street from my school. I remember going for a long walk back behind the school and just thinking about grandpa and nothing else. It hit me hard, shook me up. I didn’t really know what to think at the time.
But then I watched him. He wasn’t down at all. He was ready to fight it, and he did. He fought it for four years and as time kept moving on, I understood more what was happening and I was so proud of him for fighting it the way he did, as long as he did.
It was still very hard to watch it happen. He came to all my games and my teammates knew who he was because he was always so supportive and always there, talking to me and to them. There are a lot of good memories and it was a good thing to have so many teammates around through all those years. I basically played with the same group of guys (in Grand Rapids, Mich.) all the way up. We grew up together, so my grandpa knew them and they knew him.
He didn’t play hockey growing up, but was always a big fan of the game. He was just a big, big part of my life, a big part of hockey for me.
Now I try to play every game for him, knowing he’s watching me.
Matt DeRosa: Inspired by my goalie
Last year (while playing for the Atlanta Fire midget program) our goalie Connor McMahon, he had cancer twice before, but he was healthy, he was doing fine. We thought it was in remission and we all were thinking “thank God.”
About halfway through the season, he started having some back pain and we all just … couldn’t believe it.
We grew up playing together all the way through since Mites (8-9 years old). Connor was always on our team and is one of my best friends. We’d hang out all the time.
So when he had that back pain and we found out his cancer was back, I remember being in my hotel room, just standing there, shocked. I couldn’t move. I remember saying to myself over and over, “why him? Why again? It doesn’t make any sense. Nicest kid in the world. It shouldn’t be him.”
Connor and his family went up to Duke University Children’s Hospital (a 350-mile drive north from his home in Georgia) where they had an experimental treatment for his ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia).
I remember being at our games, getting updates from my mom. We were constantly asking how Connor was doing, and it was great to hear her say “he’s doing good, well rested, he’s fine, no temperature, nothing.”
He was really looking good. Then we got to our playoffs, and one day, mom didn’t tell me until after we had played, but then she said “Connor has a 110-degree fever.”
All I could think was “Oh, God. No…”
Our entire team packed him up some stuff, participation trophies and other stuff from us and sent it up to him. Then we got on a group chat with him and it was (amazing) that he was never down on himself. He knew he could beat it.
And he did.
He battled it and battled it, and a couple months later, he got out of Duke and his cancer is completely gone. He’s in remission now and doing great, playing high school hockey in Georgia.
He has a charity, Connor’s Hope, which raises money for cancer research and helps other kids who have it. He was just up in New York, was in People Magazine for the work his charity does, going to hospitals with gifts and to visit with kids who have cancer.
We talk and text all the time. He’s excited for me to get home after the season, said he’s waiting to hang out.
Saturday’s game, it’ll be electric in (the Rec Center). And knowing we’re out there fighting for the right reasons, this one holds a special place in my heart. I was lucky enough to have one of my close friends beat it. Some people aren’t that lucky. And when I think about it, it’s a huge energy boost knowing that he was able to beat it and that we can do something great for Mayo Clinic and raise a lot of money for cancer research.
McMahon’s story – and his Connor’s Hope foundation, which creates backpacks full of games, activities and supplies for children to use while spending time in the hospital – has been shared in many media outlets in the Atlanta area and nationally. He was was on ABC’s “Good Morning America” last November, where he was surprised to meet his favorite hockey player, New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. For more information on Connor’s Hope, see Facebook.com/ConnorsHope30/ or find its Twitter page @ConnorsHope
Kory Potach: Keeping my brother’s memory alive
“Don’t cry. Jesus will take care of me.” That’s what 4-year-old Karl Potach would tell his parents, Kurt and Brenda, when he saw their tears. That was more than 20 years ago, and Karl’s spirit lives on today through his parents, his sisters, and his brother Kory, one of the Grizzlies’ veteran forwards. Kory didn’t get to meet Karl. A Wilms tumor – the third in young Karl’s life – was too much to overcome and he passed away at age four, shortly before Kory was born. But the Karl Potach Foundation not only keeps alive the spirit and memories of Kory’s older brother, but it also has raised tens of thousands of dollars to help find a cure for pediatric cancer. The foundation also provides financial resources for children who are going through treatment and their families.
For more information on the Karl Potach Foundation, visit its website at KarlPotachFoundation.com
I didn’t get a chance to meet him, but my older brother, Karl, a couple years before I was born, was diagnosed with Wilms tumor, a rare form of cancer for the circumstances, how old he was. He was first diagnosed when he was 2, then went through multiple rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, surgeries, all that stuff that comes with it.
He ultimately ended up passing away when he was 4. I was born about a year later and it’s just really cool to see how far cancer research has come in that time, even just from one particular patient who didn’t survive.
Every year, the Karl Potach Foundation, we have a golf tournament at the Austin Country Club. Over the years, we’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to put towards cancer research and it’s just really cool to see how far it’s come since then.
His fight is over, but it doesn’t mean we can’t still make an impact on others who have any form of cancer.
I have two older sisters who knew Karl. Every once in awhile, they – and my parents (Dr. Kurt and Brenda) – will get a little sad, and I can be there for them.
His memory is alive every day; I don’t think there’s a day that passes that anybody in the family doesn’t think about him. And the pediatric clinic in Austin is named after him (the Karl R. Potach Pediatric Clinic, in the Mayo Clinic Health System medical center). Hundreds of people see his name or hear about him every day. We love to see that.
(Saturday’s) game, especially to my dad, these games mean extra to him. He likes to help out in any way he can when it comes to cancer research. He always tries to buy a few jerseys at these games (in the post-game jersey auctions). It means a lot to him and it’s really fun to go to these games and see how much money can be raised for a great cause just from one single hockey game.
Erik Evans: For my brother, ‘the fight’s not over’
My senior year of high school, at Robbinsdale Armstrong, my brother, Christian Evans, was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
He was only 22 at the time; we found out about it right after our alumni game, actually, that he had played in.
It was tough to witness someone close to you go through that, especially someone so strong who you’ve looked up to your whole life and to see them get pushed down by something so difficult. But, seeing how he fought that, the courage and positivity he had through such a hard time, it brought me a lot of inspiration.
It was definitely really scary at first. But to see how he reacted to the news, it was obviously scary, but his confidence through it all, to not show fear, was amazing. It would be easy to let something scary like that, and the fear, dictate how you live, but he (accepted) it and fought it in the best way possible. There was never any feeling sorry for himself or sadness in how he handled it. He fought through it, which wasn’t easy.
He went through it, fought it and is all good now. Last summer Christian hit the one-year all-clear mark, and that’s a huge milestone for staying cancer-free.
But even though he’s been cleared, he always says, “the fight’s not over.” Even though he’s been cleared, he still wants to push for more awareness and research.
He’s doing great now. He’s a senior at Augsburg College. He’s 24 years old, finishing a double major and working hard in the classroom. He came down last weekend to watch our games here, my first games with the Grizzlies.
Joey Fodstad: Missing ‘Grandma’ Dee
I was in Canada playing hockey at the end of August last year.
My mom called one day after one of my games and right away said, “Joey, Dee has cancer.”
I just didn’t know how to feel. I was kind of numb. I just went for a drive, didn’t go home, just kind of drove around and thought to myself that no one should ever have to deal with that.
Dee Hanson is the mother of my mom’s best friend. She recently passed away from breast cancer, in the middle of October.
It was really tough for me and my family because (Dee) lived across the street from my grandma and we went to their house for Christmases, Thanksgivings, Easters, they were a second family to us. And it’s really tough to see someone who is another grandma to you pass away suddenly.
It happened very fast. I wish I’d have had more time with her, but I was here in Rochester. It was difficult. The day of her funeral we had a game so I wasn’t able to attend. I FaceTimed with my mom (Jessie) and just passed along my condolences and let everyone know how I felt about Dee, and that I wanted to be there.
You hate to see it happen, but hopefully she’s in a better place because I know she was in pain. And I don’t want to see anyone suffer through that, especially someone who was so close to me. I keep thinking “why did she have to go through this? Why did she have to go through this instead of me?”
And I think of how lucky I am, but also how unlucky I am at the same time. Because, while she wasn’t my direct family, she felt like it. We were all very close.
I’m glad that so many people are researching and trying to find a cure because it’s a terrible thing. No one deserves to go through that. I’m really looking forward to Saturday’s game. Hopefully I’ll have some family down and hopefully we’ll all raise a lot of money for Mayo to get some good research in and hopefully they can defeat cancer.