For Danielle Dubé, hitting the ice for the longest hockey game in the world to raise awareness and funds for cystic fibrosis has required the same sort of physical and mental preparation as attending a Team Canada training camp.
Now that she and the other 39 ladies who are lacing up their skates for 10 days straight have reached the midway point of their marathon game, Dubé continues to apply what she learned during her time with Canada’s National Women’s Team to help the determined team not only break a Guinness world record, but also raise at least $400,000 for Cystic Fibrosis Canada and ultimately, find a cure for the most common killer disease among young Canadians.
“I’m just eating as much as I can when I can, sleeping the rest of the time or trying to sleep … and then just going on the ice when they tell us to,” Dubé said this week from Canlan Ice Sports – Burnaby 8 Rinks, where she had just finished a five hour shift on the ice. “At Team Canada camps, you would have two (ice times) a day, but when you were off the ice you … rarely had downtime, so that’s how I mentally prepared.”
When the puck dropped on the Longest Game for CF last Friday morning, Dubé and the other volunteer female players started off with four hours on the ice, followed by eight hours off the ice, but as the ambitious fundraiser continues to unfold, tough injuries for some have resulted in longer shifts for others.
“Everyone’s feet are just so sore (with) blisters and skate bite,” Dubé said. “The biggest thing right now that we’re running out of is medical supplies – we just can’t get enough.”
Dubé is playing forward, instead of between the posts as she’s accustomed, because she broke a finger while on the job as a firefighter last week. “I convinced the doctor to bury the pins so I could still play, but I have to play out because (I can’t) cram it into my goalie glove.”
But the pain of minor sports injuries can’t compare to the pain of severe breathing problems caused by cystic fibrosis, or of losing a loved one to this suffocating genetic disease far too soon. It’s thoughts of those affected by cystic fibrosis, which causes a thick build-up of mucus that inflames and infects the lungs, that keeps hundreds of volunteers both on and off the ice motivated as they move into the latter half of the 243-hour hockey game in Burnaby, B.C.
The fact that on Tuesday the fundraiser reached the $100,000 mark – and the game reached its 100th hour – has also kept spirits high in the rink.
“The atmosphere is absolutely electric,” event spokeswoman Karen Sunner said, adding another way those in the area can help is by stopping by the arena to cheer on the players who are both reaching and skating their hearts out. “I’m so proud of their sheer amount of dedication.”
For event leader Val Skelly, the Longest Game for CF is a matter of keeping her promise.
“I met a young girl by the name of Lucia (Tavano), who had cystic fibrosis, and we became very good friends,” she said. “She ended up dying at the age of 27, and I told her before she died that I was going to do something huge for cystic fibrosis.”
Skelly also grew up playing hockey, so bringing her good friends together for a good cause simply made sense.
“What a better way to spread the word about cystic fibrosis than in the locker room?” Skelly said. “Hockey is all about breathing, it’s all about our lungs (and) it’s a way of bringing people together, whether it’s watching people play or playing -- there’s camaraderie.”
Dube said the more she learns about the debilitating disease she’s playing for, the more she realizes “how many people are connected to CF.”
“There are mothers here, there are women that don’t have children; we’re all so different but we’re coming together for one cause.”
Dubé, who has practised with the Vancouver Canucks and won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 1997 World Women’s Championship in Kitchener, Ont., said that’s why playing in Longest Game for CF is truly “a once in a lifetime chance.”
“Hockey gave me so many opportunities,” she said. “It’s really nice to be able to use hockey to give back.”
To donate directly to the Longest Game for CF, or to make a pledge to your favourite player, please visit LongestGame4CF.com, where you can also watch the action live and see the clock tick closer to a record-breaking game time. Medical supplies can be dropped off at Burnaby 8 Rinks on Sprott Street.
You can also get regular updates from the rink by “liking” the Longest Ice Hockey Game 4 CF on Facebook and following www.Twitter.com/longestgame4cf.