Sometimes hockey is much, much more than just a game. Nowhere was that more evident than in Edmonton last night where the Senators and Oilers faced one another.
For Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson, it wasn’t about the a 37-save shutout win. Nor was it about winning first star of the game. Or for that matter, being named the NHL’s first star of the week for stopping 59 shots in two shutouts during the week.
Instead, it was about finding strength and courage to keep moving on. And feeling the love of teammates, opposing players and fans.
Anderson went on personal leave on Thursday, but returned after fellow goalie Andrew Hammond was injured. His return to the team on Sunday came just one day after Ottawa General Manager Pierre Dorion announced that the goalie’s wife, Nicholle Anderson, was recently diagnosed with cancer. Dorian emphasized that it was Nicholle who encouraged her husband to suit up and return to the team while they wait to learn more about her diagnosis.
It was a monumental performance from Anderson to help his team come away with two points against the red-hot Oilers. Following the win, the teary Anderson was surrounded by his teammates and seemingly the entire hockey world.
Even Cam Talbot, the Oilers goalie who came out to receive second star honors, joined the crowd to join in the applause for Anderson who was named the game’s first star.
“I can’t imagine what was going through his mind. I don’t know if I would be able to do what he did right now. We send our thoughts and prayers to him and his family,” Talbot said to the media after the game.
The NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer initiative is a galvanizing movement by the players and league to acknowledge those who are fighting the dreaded disease. Cancer has touched the hockey community many times. Mario Lemieux, Phil Kessel, and Saku Koivu have all battled the disease. And this season, Sens GM Bryan Murray stepped down this season to receive his treatment.
1st star pic.twitter.com/P0w8GYNtui
— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 31, 2016
Sunday night, the coaching staffs for both teams wore the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer ties as a nod to the Andersons.
“We love hockey. It’s a great game. But there are things that are bigger. There are a lot of people who showed that tonight.” – Senators coach Guy Boucher
This night, no matter what team you were on, there were many reasons to cheer. It was a highlight reel goaltending performance, an emotional win and an incredibly touching moment after the game as fans, players, and coached witnessed the camaraderie and sportsmanship that makes this sport so great.
In the days ahead, Craig and Nicholle Anderson will begin to plot an action plan for treatment. If Sunday night was any indication, they’ll have an entire sport ready to fight with them.