© Heather Taweel/The Guardian
The Vector Aerospace Face Off Against Cancer is back for its third year. The fundraising hockey tournament was launched Thursday. From left are former Toronto Maple Leaf defenceman Al Iafrate, committee member Danny White and former Montreal Canadiens right-winger Stephane Richer.
Danny White never played hockey growing up.
He was 32 years old when he started playing the game in 2008 and now can say he has skated with former professional hockey players.
"I never would have dreamed in all my life I would be out playing with NHLers," the Summerside resident and Kildare native said.
He and his Donut teammates have taken part in the first two years of the Vector Aerospace Face Off Against Cancer and are registered for September's third go-around. They are a club of about 70 people who are adults learning the game.
"Yeah, we're not the greatest hockey players, but we are entertaining," White said with a smile. "We're doing it for the right (reasons), that's the cancer society. We're there to raise money and go out and have some fun."
White said he spent a lot of time walking around town last summer, knocking on doors and going to businesses looking for donations. He raised about $1,200, and his team has brought in $9,000 combined during the past two seasons.
He remembers his goalie telling him he didn't want the NHLers to take it easy on them. White relayed the message to former Boston Bruins forward Bob Sweeney, who graciously obliged.
"The yellow and black goes by me wide open and all I hear is clink and the puck is in the net," White told the audience assembled for Thursday's launch of this year's tournament.
The goalie said it was awesome and hoped next time the puck would hit him.
"You never get that playing normal hockey anywhere else," White said. "This is an experience."
The fundraiser has 16 teams draft a celebrity and play at least three games from Sept. 23 to 25 at MacLauchlan Arena.
It has raised about $235,000 during the past two years.
"We're raising critical dollars," said Vector Aerospace's Colin MacDonald. "We want to beat this terrible disease called cancer."
Former Montreal Canadiens right-winger Stephane Richer and former Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Al Iafrate are both taking part in September.
"It's an event that hits home," said Iafrate.
His mother is a two-time breast cancer survivor, who also had lymph node cancer.
Richer received a call from his mother before a playoff game in 2001 saying she had cancer. After 17 years he decided to retire.
"I had been away since I was 14 years old," he said. "The best thing for me was to go back home and spend time with my mom."
He said the experience made him a better person and allowed him to see life differently.
Canadian Cancer Society - P.E.I. division board chairman Ken Hubley said the money raised goes to research, supports P.E.I. programs and strategies and advocacy work and helps support those with cancer.
"We have a lot of work to do, but I assure you that we are making a difference," he said. "Forty-five years ago if you were diagnosed with the disease it was pretty much a death spell."
The survival rate was 25 per cent at that point, but today it is 63 per cent and it's higher for certain types of cancers.
"We are making progress," he said. "But it couldn't be done without events like this."
Vector Aerospace Face Off Against Cancer
What - A charity hockey tournament entering its third year. The tournament features a draft of celebrity players and coaches.
When - Sept. 23 to 25.
Where - MacLauchlan Arena.
Lineup of former NHL hockey players and local celebrities - Billy MacMillan, Fred MacDonald, Terry O'Reilly, Rick Middleton, Bob Sweeney, Stephane Richer, Al Iafrate and Chris Nilan.
Top fundraising teams
2015 - Andrew's Army.
2014 - P.E.I. Dentists and Doctors.
2015 - ABCE/MRSA Bean Counters.
2014 - Fitzpatrick & Company Chartered Accountants Misfitz.
Online - Learn more about the tournament and register at cancer.ca/faceoffpei or call 1-866-566-4007.