UPCOMING FUNDRAISERS FEATURE FIVE 2010 OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALLISTS
For as long as Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux can remember, her mother has watched from the stands, cheering her on as she chases the puck around the ice and pursues her hockey dreams. She hasn't missed a single championship game.
At last season's Game On to Beat Breast Cancer, the first-ever such fundraiser hosted by the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL), it was mom's turn to take to the ice, the sounds of applause honouring a very special guest – a survivor.
"It was such a great moment to be able to give her a rose, and congratulate her," Breton, a former candidate of Canada's National Women's Team and current captain of the CWHL's Montreal Stars, said of honouring her mother, along with a handful of other women who have fought – and beaten – breast cancer. It's the most common cancer among Canadian women between 20 and 49 years old.
"Being able to tell her myself how proud of her I am for being so strong … " Breton recalled, her voice wavering as she became choked up at the memory. "It was special."
With 800 fans in attendance at last season's battle between the CWHL's top two teams, the Boston Blades and Montreal Stars, Breton (St-Zacharie, Que.) and teammates are hoping for even more supporters in the stands when the puck drops this Saturday, Nov. 19 at 3 p.m. ET and Monday, Nov. 20 at 1 p.m. ET, both at Étienne-Desmarteau Arena in Montréal. They're also hoping to top the more than $7,000 raised last year for the Québec Breast Cancer Foundation.
Admission is free to the cross-border matchup, which will feature 11 Olympians, including Team Canada's Meghan Agosta (Ruthven, Ont.), Caroline Ouellette (Montreal, Que.), Sarah Vaillancourt (Sherbrooke, Que.) and Catherine Ward (Montreal, Que.), in addition to fellow National Women's Program alumnae Emmanuelle Blais (Montréal, Que.), Sabrina Harbec (St. Hubert, Que.) and Noémie Marin (Acton-Vale, Que.).
Donations to the Québec Breast Cancer Foundation are encouraged and a silent auction will include souvenirs autographed by Canada's National Women's Team members, tickets to Montréal Canadiens games, artwork created by high school students from the Collège Regina Assumpta as part of a special project called Carrément Rose and game-worn pink jerseys.
Montréal forward Agosta, the CWHL's No. 1 draft pick in 2011, has also had hockey equipment especially designed for the occasion, and plans to auction off the pants and gloves adorned with pink stripes following the fundraiser, which continues with another double header, this time against the Toronto Furies, next weekend in Windsor, Ont. The Toronto team features fellow 2010 Olympic gold medallist Tessa Bonhomme (Sudbury, Ont.), CWHL founder and National Women's Team alumna Sami Jo Small (Winnipeg, Man.) and 2011 4 Nations Cup silver medallist Jesse Scanzano (Montreal, Que.).
The Stick It To Cancer weekend, hosted in partnership with local non-profit group The Breast Ride Ever, kicks off Saturday, Nov. 26 at 6 p.m. ET, while Game 2 is set for Sunday, Nov. 27 at 12:30 p.m. ET, both at Windsor Arena. Ticket information is available online at www.ticketweb.ca and proceeds benefit the Windsor and Essex County Cancer Centre Foundation.
Agosta said she has been inspired by the experiences of close family friends, including triumphant survivors Debbie Chambers and Liz DelCiancio, as well as Kerry Dick, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. "When I found out that one of my friends, his mom, had breast cancer, I wrote him and said ‘You know what, believe anything is possible, ‘ " she said. "When somebody finds out that they have cancer … right away they (may) think the worst … but there's so much research, that anything's possible."
The more cash collected at events such as Game on to Beat Breast Cancer in Montreal and Stick it To Cancer in Windsor, the more possible a cure becomes, Agosta emphasized.
Assistant captain Ouellette, who wears a pink rubber bracelet every day to remind her of the cause that's close to her own family's heart, added the four upcoming Montreal Stars game won't just raise awareness of a disease that afflicts one in nine women. It will also shine a light on the growing CWHL, which also has teams in Alberta, Brampton and Burlington.
"A lot of people will come for the cause without really having seen a women's hockey game live," she said. "Usually, they want to come back and see more games."
Joanne Breton is certainly no stranger to women's hockey, and will be at the rink this weekend, watching her daughter skate by in a fight for the puck, a blur of pink flying up and down the ice. Lisa-Marie may be defending Montreal's Clarkson Cup title this season, but she believes her mother is the true champion.
"Hockey is my passion … but sometimes it's not all about hockey," she said. "It's fun to be able to give back … to the people we love."
For more information on the CWHL and its initiatives, please visit www.CWHL.ca.