Ice hockey is a pretty grueling sport, even when you just play a regulation three-period game. What would ever make anyone sign up for a game that went on for 11 straight days?
For these hockey players in Buffalo, NY, it was a chance to fight back against cancer, a cause that hit close to home for many of them, who had lost friends and loved ones to the disease…and maybe they could beat a world record along the way!
These were the goals of the 11 Day Power Play, an epic marathon hockey game that started June 22nd and finished July 3rd at Buffalo’s HarborCenter.
The idea began with a cute hockey-loving couple.
The game was organized by Mike and Amy Lesakowski, a husband and wife team who were inspired by both their love of hockey and their terrible firsthand experience with cancer. At age 35, in 2009, Amy developed cancer. According to WKBW, she underwent chemotherapy for months before entering remission.
“Seeing what my wife went through was difficult,” Mike told WKBW. “You just rely on those people that help you get through things and it makes you a stronger person because of it.”
Then last year, Mike lost his own mother to cancer, at age 62.
In honor of these people in his life who had fought the disease, Mike wanted to raise money for research, so no one would have to go through what his family had gone through. Drawing from his own lifelong interest in hockey, he decided to host a charity game to raise $1 million.
And not just any game: the longest one ever.
“The 11-Day Power Play will be an unfathomably fierce fight—yet it’s nothing compared to the battle cancer patients face each day,” the event’s site reads.
Proceeds went to Buffalo’s own Roswell Park Cancer Institute, the world’s first research center to exclusively focus on cancer and a world leader in the field for over a century, where Amy underwent her fight with cancer and now works part-time, paying it forward to other patients.
The teams were made up of 40 players, divided into the Blue Team and the White Team, consisting of both local amateur players and former NHL pros, including former Buffalo Sabres captain Michael Peca. The players also raised the money by soliciting donations and corporate sponsorships.
And Mike and Amy weren’t the only ones motivated by a personal connection with cancer. All the teammates were playing in honor of affected loved ones. You can read more about the players, and who they are playing for, on the event’s website.
You can also see some of them talk about their personal cancer stories, and motivations for playing in the game in the video below:
While everyone was in it for a good personal cause, they were still out to officially clinch the world record for the longest non-stop hockey game. The previous record was held by Dr. Brent Saik and Friends of Alberta, Canada since 2015, also in an event to raise money for cancer. That game lasted about 250 hours and three minutes. To top it, the Buffalo teams had to play for eleven consecutive days, with no player leaving the arena.
With everyone on board, it was time to hit the ice.
So, how did they manage it? According to WKBW, the players did get some rest. They played in shifts, with players alternating four hours of play followed by eight hours of rest. The teammates stayed in the stadium full time, resting on donated mattresses in a makeshift dorm.
Speaking to Buffalo News, player Chris Evanco addressed the question of whether they felt tired:
“How can you get tired of doing something you love?”
By the time the game came to a close on July 3rd, they had successfully played uninterrupted for 11 straight days, about 251 hours. And while it isn’t Guinness official yet, that makes it the longest hockey game ever played.
When it was finally over, the teams had a well-deserved victory party on the ice:
How world record-holders celebrate finishing the longest hockey game ever played. #11DayPowerPlay
Posted by 7 Eyewitness News WKBW on Monday, July 3, 2017
In the end of a relatively close game, the winner was the Blue Team, with a score of 1725 to 1697. Between both sides, more than 3,000 goals were scored during the 11 days.
And best of all, they shattered their donation goal, raising $1.2 million for Roswell.
— 11 Day Power Play (@11DayPowerPlay) July 4, 2017
But everything came back home for Mike, who kept the lost loved one who inspired it all in mind during the event.
“She would have been here… or maybe she is,” he said to Buffalo News.
This just goes to show how bonding over a common cause can really bring out the best in people, inspiring both incredible generosity and physical feats. These people found a way to make a huge contribution to fighting cancer, all while doing something they loved.
Hopefully the money raised goes a long way towards fighting cancer.