The Coquitlam Express will use their home opener on Sunday to raise money for a local pro hockey player enduring a health challenge.
Express president Mark Pettie said the team will donate $5 of each ticket sold in advance to Sunday’s game against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks to the family of Wade MacLeod, who grew up in Coquitlam and currently lives in Port Moody. The advance tickets are available at Planet Ice and Mariner Brewing in Coquitlam as well as Innovative Fitness in Port Moody.
MacLeod recently underwent his fourth operation in five years to deal with a recurring glioblastoma tumour in his brain. A GoFundMe campaign started by a friend of MacLeod’s family has raised more than $90,000 since it was launched just over three weeks ago, garnering support and words of encouragement from everywhere the 31-year-old touched down in his journey through the hockey world.
MacLeod played two seasons in the BC Hockey League with the Merritt Centennials before heading to Northeastern University in Boston. After graduating with a business degree, he signed his first pro contract with the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League.
It was during MacLeod’s second season with the Falcons when he collapsed on the ice and went into convulsions after absorbing a hit into boards. Doctors discovered the tumour, about the size of a golf ball, and removed it a month later.
MacLeod recovered and resumed his career, alighting with various minor pro teams across North America before heading to Germany to play for the Rosenheim Star Bulls.
After MacLeod’s first season there, doctors determined the tumour was growing back and he endured another operation before coming back to play for the Allen Americans in Allen, Texas then signing with the Frankfurt Lions back in Germany.
But the latest setback, in which MacLeod endured two more operations over this past summer, likely means the end of his hockey career, said Mike Armstrong on the fundraising site he launched.
Pettie said MacLeod’s story resonated as the Express, and all other junior hockey teams across Canada, will hold a pre-game ceremony to honour the memory of members of the Humboldt Broncos junior team in Saskatchewan who were killed last April when their bus collided with a truck as they travelled to a playoff game.
“The power of the hockey community has been on full display for our country to watch recently in Humboldt,” Pettie said. “We felt we could bring that spirit of giving to Coquitlam for one night and help someone who rode the buses just like those kids.”
The money raised for MacLeod will be used to help support his young family, and pay for his medical expenses including possible alternative therapies.
The Express lost a pair of games they played against the Prince George Spruce Kings, in Prince George, over the weekend.
But it was not a lost weekend, said Express coach Jason Fortier, of the 5-3 setback last Friday and 3-0 loss on Saturday. His charges learned some valuable lessons about discipline and the price exacted when that breaks down.
“We are trying to become a hard team to play against, a team that works hard each night and plays with structure,” Fortier said.
But that structure broke down repeatedly against the Spruce Kings as the Express repeatedly took penalties that put them at a disadvantage or negated their own power plays.
“Physical hockey doesn’t mean taking stick penalties,” Fortier said. “We need to address our stick penalties quickly.”
They’ll get that chance Thursday and Saturday when the Express will play games against Powell River and Cowichan Valley at the BCHL’s annual showcase in Chilliwack.
Sunday’s home opener at the Poirier Sports and Leisure Complex is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.