24-hour hockey game in Edmonton raises money for young adults with cancer

Kids and coaches were up all Friday night playing hockey in Edmonton to raise money for young adults living with cancer.

The initiative was inspired by Matt Cook, a former Alberta Junior Hockey League player from Edmonton who died of cancer in 2010.

The game – which took place at the Canadian Athletic Club from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Saturday – is a tribute to Cook and a great experience for young players, said Tammy Coley, chair of the 24 Hour Charity Challenge Game.

“It’s pretty cool for them to stay up all night playing hockey,” Coley said.

Matt Cook, born in 1987, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, when he was 18. After months of chemotherapy in 2006, his leg was amputated below the knee.

Soon after, Cook started playing sledge hockey and even made the Canadian national team. He was only 22 when he died.

Matt Cook, a former Alberta Junior Hockey League player, was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 18. He took up sledge hockey after his leg was amputated in 2006 and eventually made the national team. He died in 2010 at the age of 22. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

For 11 years, to honor his memory, power skating coaches played 24 hours of hockey against young athletes to raise money for the Matt Cook Foundation, which supports young adults hospitalized with cancer.

“Matt inspired so many people through all of his health challenges,” Coley said. “He certainly inspired us to want to do something in his name.”

Young adults, a “forgotten age group”

The foundation’s mission is to make life more normal for other young adults battling cancer, its website says.

“The foundation does a great job with young adults — so the 18 to 25 age group — which is a bit of a forgotten age group,” Coley said.

It supports teens and young adults by providing care packages with things like iPads, headphones and other items to keep them occupied and connected while they receive treatment, she explained.

Tammy Coley, chair of the 24-hour Charity Challenge Game, said it was the 11th time young athletes and skating coaches had competed for the event. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

This year’s 24-hour charity game took place at the Canadian Athletic Club in Edmonton from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Saturday.

For the first 23 hours, participants play standard hockey. In the last hour, they play sledge hockey.

Coley said it was fitting to end the tournament the way Cook ended his career.

“It’s a really good tribute to Matt,” Coley said. “It doesn’t hurt that the guys have been playing 23 hours at this point. They’re pretty happy to get their skates up.”

Catherine J. Martinez