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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Family members fighting cancer honored during emotional ‘Pink the Rink’ night

Simon Asher
Arizona’s Justin Plumhoff and Head Coach Chad Berman hold up a jersey honoring Plumhoff’s mother and her fight with cancer. All jerseys worn by Arizona were pink to honor those with cancer.

While there was a hockey game going on at the Tucson Convention Center, it was not the main story of the night. 

For the fourth year in a row, the team executed their “Pink the Rink” night where all who have battled cancer are honored and remembered. All but a handful of Wildcat players were selected to wear custom pink jerseys with the name plate stitched with name that wasn’t their own, but rather someone affected by cancer. Many of the names on their jerseys hit very close to home.

It was a date circled on the calendar for many, and especially Arizona’s coaching staff, 

“It’s [‘Pink the Rink’] a way for us to reach out back to the Tucson community and the community at large, “assistant coach Eddie Lavilla said following the game the previous night. ”To be able to contribute back to a better cause and make a night something a little bit beyond a hockey game is honestly something that’s really special.” 

There were big hits on the ice and goals scored left and right that made fans jump out of their seats all night, but nothing compared to the energy that overcame the arena when players lined up for the post-game ceremony. There was a mixture of sadness (for those lost), joy (for those who had survived), and indescribable realization of the fragileness of life. 

The ceremony was held to read aloud the stories behind every jersey as the player took it off their back and handed it to the party representing the loved one. 

Here are some of the stories from those who knew them best (all quotes were said by UA hockey’s PA announcer, but it was family members – who were not revealed publicly – that wrote the content read off).

#6 Josh Larson, “Papo” 

UA hockey’s Hogan brothers, John and Toppie, partook in the game in a way they weren’t used to doing. Assistant coach John met Wildcat golfer Toppie, and their family, on the ice to remember their grandfather.

“Two years ago, Dale passed away after a hard-fought battle with cancer. Just days before his passing, ‘Papo’ was honored to receive the game puck from the Wildcat’s first game and win of that season, versus NAU. This gesture from the team meant the world to him and his family. He was an inspiration and a role model to all that knew him.”

#19 Justin Plumhoff, “Mom” 

Centerman Justin Plumhoff’s jersey was simply inscribed “mom”, to honor his mother who is still battling cancer. His mother was present to share the moment with him.

“Jamie [Plumhoff] lives in Ashburn, Virginia and was diagnosed just five years ago with Multiple myeloma… she was treated with an induction chemotherapy, went through bone marrow transplant and is involved in a clinical trial that involves [inaudible] and daily chemotherapy. Her journey continues though she is using her experience to help other patients and pay forward the enormous support of family and friends… she will be hiking Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon, to raise much needed funds and awareness for the Multiple myeloma research foundation… with this jersey we show off our everlasting love and support” 

#21 Orion Olsen, “Sanders”

Orion Olsen’s jersey was one of the few jerseys that reminded the fans they were at a hockey game. His jersey celebrated the life of his great uncle, Frank Sander, who shared Olsen’s passion for the game.

“Frank [Sanders] passed away after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer, on Feb 17, 2012. Frank was captain of the Minnesota Golden Gopher’s hockey team in 1970 and 71. We won the silver medal representing Team USA in the 1972 Winter Olympics… he played professionally for the WHA’s Minnesota Fighting Saints and then became an ordain minister. This jersey is to honor Frank’s life and contribute to finding a cure to pancreatic cancer.” 

#23 Charlie James, “Woodward”

Forward Charlie James had his jersey stitched up to say “Woodward”, the last name of his grandfather. Several family members stood with him on the ice to accept the jersey.

“Roy Woodward battled cancer with all he had. He lived each day never giving up, and never giving in. He loved his family his work, his community, his boat, his Harley. He met all challenges head on and we know he’s watching over his grandson, wearing this jersey tonight, with great pleasure with the best seat in heaven; rest easy Papa”

#25 Trey Decker, “John A Decker Jr”

One of the final jerseys of the night was right wing Trey Decker’s. He was met by his mom on the ice where they remembered his father John.

“John Decker – better known as Junior – was a beloved father, husband, son, brother, and friend, who lost his battle with stage four melanoma cancer last March. He was first diagnosed in September of 2014 and went through treatment, and was doing well, but after a third check-up, he came back six months later and it attacked sides of his brain and bones. He always battled hard and was positive. [As written by Trey Decker] ‘I was privileged enough to call this man my dad and tonight I’m wearing his name on my jersey. My dad would tell me before every game: go big, or go home – which was how he lived his life. He is dearly missed’ “.

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