11 Day Power Play Community Shift: Just one shift makes a world of difference

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    Daniel Keating smiled when he said he wasn’t sure if he could handle the grind of playing hockey for four consecutive hours. But he would give it all he had because it means so much.

    Keating is one of roughly 1,500 players who will strap on their skates this summer when the 11 Day Power Play Community Shift drops the puck at the HarborCenter July 5-15.

    “Really, it was for the cause,” said Keating, who will captain a team made up of National Grid employees. “A lot of people at National Grid, including myself, we have folks that have died from cancer. And on the good side, have survived cancer.”

    Last summer, the 11 Day Power Play made worldwide headlines when 40 men from WNY attempted to break the record for the world’s longest hockey game (250 hours) in an effort to raise $1 million for Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo.

    The 11 Day Power Play was a double winner as they surpassed its monetary goal-reaching $1.2 million. They also clocked in just over 250 hours, but they are still waiting for official word that their game has been acknowledged as a new world’s record.

    Unlike the first 11 Day Power Play where the same 40 players had to stay on the HarborCenter property for the duration of the event, the 11 Day Power Play Community Shift opens the door for players/teams to play in just one, four-hour game.

    Event co-founders Mike and Amy Lesakowski said that after seeing the overwhelming support from the community and it was no-brainer to keep the 11 Day Power Play going in some form.

    “Leading up to the event raising a lot of money felt really good,” Mike Lesakowski said. “When the game went on and immediately after it was like how can we let this thing go? We’ve got to keep it going. We thought maybe in a couple years we’d do another world record (attempt) event, and we probably will, but it seemed like why waste the momentum that we had so let’s keep it going.”

    Along with opening the game up to more players, there will also be more recipients of the money raised as Roswell Park, Camp Good Days and Special Times and Make-A-Wish Foundation of WNY will share the proceeds.

    Lesakowski will be captaining a team comprised of former teammates of his from Fredonia State College, some of whom were members of the original 11 Day Power Play team. Like Chris Boron.

    Boron, who will play four different shifts this time around, said his reason for stepping on the ice again is simple.

    The first 11 Day Power Play won a battle, but the war against cancer continues.

    “It’s such a great cause and I’m very glad that we’ve got a couple other worthy charities that we’re playing for as well. So it ups the stakes a little bit,” Boron said. “It’s unfortunate that cancer still exists, but there are these outlets that are trying to do good and I’m glad that we can help out.”

    One of the biggest reasons why the first 11 Day Power Play was a success was because of the character of the players. They were all there for the right reason. They understood the mission. It wasn’t about hotdogging it or thinking this game would somehow propel them to the pros. It was about raising money for Roswell. Breaking a record. And, most importantly, playing for loved ones who were touched by cancer.

    Which is why, Lesakowski said, the Community Shift players all have to go through a strict questioning process before they are cleared to play.

    “We have a forum, in a hockey town, to raise a lot of money for some really good causes,” Mike Lesakowski said, “and I felt like we would be remiss if we didn’t continue that.”

    Keating, who has worked with Camp Good Days and Make-A-Wish is the past, said to be able to have the chance to take a shift and continue to give back to those organizations is something he just couldn’t pass up.

    “My mother is a survivor, so I’m playing specifically for her,” Keating said. “But like I said those three organizations, especially within Niagara Grid, we’ve been very supportive of those of all three of those organizations.”

    Forever connected to his 11 Day Power Play brothers, Boron feels the original team accomplished something truly special, but there is no reason why they can’t widen their family circle. Boron said he loves the idea of the Community Shift and thinks it will be a special event in its own right.

    Boron said that bringing more players on board will help the fundraising aspect because you now have more people spreading the word of the event throughout WNY.

    “The idea of the community game is great because you’ve got a larger network,” Boron said, “and the hockey community is strong and it’s a good community to help fight (for) this cause.”

    The Community Shift will have teams matched up according to age and skill level. Including youth divisions. Which made Liam Lesakowski, Mike and Amy’s 14-year-old son, smile.

    Liam, who often trained with last year’s 11 Day team, was at HarborCenter every day during the first 11 Day Power Play.

    Looking on with awe at what his parents created Liam, who will be skating with a team called the Buffalo IceBoys, said he is excited to step on the ice with his friends. Not only because they get to play the game they love, but to also show that kids his age have a desire to give back to their community.

    “Yeah I think it’s cool that we get to do something that we love to do for a great cause,” Liam Lesakowski said.
    “So we get to play with our friends and this is the first time we get to something through hockey to help with the cause.”

     

    For more information on the 11 Day Power Play Community Shift go to their website http://www.11daypowerplay.com/

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    Former stand-up comic and music journalist who has been in sports journalism for 20 years. Dave has covered high school sports, NHL, Minor League Baseball, NWHL, college, NBA and MLB. Has written for MLB.com, Baseball America, The Buffalo News, Boston Globe, Associated Press, The Hockey News, Newsday, Ottawa Citizen, Tampa Tribune, New York Hockey Journal, New England Hockey Journal, Tonawanda News, Niagara Gazette, Lockport Journal, Ken-Ton Sun, Virginia Pilot, Providence Journal, Scranton Times-Leader, Portland Herald, and Toledo Blade. Athletic interests: hockey, baseball, boxing, aikido, Jeet Kune Do, wrestling, basketball, football and soccer.

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