Rallying point

This article can be found published in the Dec. 3, 2012, issue of The Hockey News.
Chris Kushneriuk spent time as captain of the Robert Morris University hockey team. (Chris Kushneriuk)

Chris Kushneriuk spent time as captain of the Robert Morris University hockey team. (Chris Kushneriuk)

For most, June 19, 2012, was just another day in the off-season. For Chris Kushneriuk, it was the day he’ll never forget. The 25-year-old Ottawa native was training for the upcoming ECHL season when dull, achy pain in his side and back sent him to the hospital. “I remember I was just sitting there thinking I feel fine,” Kushneriuk said. “The doctor comes in and goes, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, but you have testicular cancer.’ The next day I was in for surgery and a couple weeks after that, chemotherapy.”

The news sent shockwaves through many in the hockey community. “You’re so stunned and bewildered at how this could happen to a young, healthy professional hockey player,” said Zach Hervato, his friend and former teammate at Robert Morris University.

Since the news broke, support has poured Kushneriuk’s way. Bakersfield, the team he was to play on, had him on speakerphone on the ice at the end of October and everyone said a prayer with him. They also hung his jersey in the room. “We feel like he should be in the locker room with us,” said Condors teammate Evan Trupp. “It hangs there every game and practice as a reminder to all of us who we’re playing for every night.”

RMU coach Derek Schooley has spearheaded fundraisers in honor of Kushneriuk, including an awareness weekend, a team autograph session and bracelets that read, “RMU Krushes Cancer.” The team also participated in ‘Movember’ to raise money for various men’s health issues. “When Chris was comfortable letting the world know he had testicular cancer, plans took off from there,” Schooley said. “He was an integral part of our program and he still is.”

Kushneriuk was preparing for another surgery Nov. 19 to remove part of his liver and affected lymph nodes in his abdomen, but doctors are optimistic, perhaps with another round of chemotherapy, that will be the end of the cancer. He continues to look toward the future and the chance to play again. “I’ve come to realize how big of a part hockey has in my life and what I would do is try to use the game to reach out to others,” he said. “Down the road, I want to be much more actively involved in cancer awareness and raising money to help eliminate the disease.”



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Categories: ECHL, Health, Ice Hockey, Sports

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