Sometimes life gives you just one chance to do something great.
Other times the truly lucky ones get a second chance.
Dave Hage is one of the lucky ones.
Hage will be one of roughly 1,500 players who will take part in the 11Day Power Play Community Shift that takes place at HarborCenter July 5-15.
The Community Shift is the follow up event to last summer’s 11 Day Power Play. A marathon hockey game that saw 40 men take their shot at the world’s record for the longest continuous hockey game. They played just over 250 hours and in the process raised $1.2 million for Roswell Park.
An event Hage watched from the sidelines with his arm/shoulder in a sling.
Hage was one of the 11 Day original 40, but his world came crashing in as just days before puck drop he suffered a broken collarbone in a men’s league game. A crestfallen Hage felt he had let his teammates down. He soon found out what the 11Day brotherhood was about.
“What helped a lot was all 40 guys who did it last year we’re very supportive of everything I was going through,” Hage said. “And they realized, I think the heartbreak, and they sort of put themselves in my shoes. I think every single one of them reached out to me throughout the course of the year. Just checking up on me which is amazing. It’s that level of support, it was bitter sweet that I had to miss it. But at the same time I went through all the (training) preparation with these guys for the whole year. And it just felt like I was part of it anyways.”
Hage is one of a handful of players who were on the cusp of the first 11 Day Power Play, but circumstances kept them from participating.
Now, the Community Shift gives those people, and others, their chance to play and actively do their part in the battle against cancer.
Hage had a long road back and is still not fully healed. Which is why he will be on very limited duty. But even just a handful of shifts will give Hage a feeling like he has done his part and didn’t miss out.
“(Original 40 player) Mac Hartman reached out to me at one of the (weekly) skates and said hey we have an extra spot on our roster. We’d love for you to come play,” Hage said. “I wasn’t going to do it. I actually still felt a little bit hesitant. Obviously I’m not recovered fully. I’m kinda just testing the waters (at weekly fun skates) but at the same time these kinds of thing don’t come around that often. This kind of support and community. You almost feel like a family and you want to be part of it.”
The first 11Day Power Play, as part of the criteria for the world’s record, required players to remain at the HarborCenter for the duration of the game. Players skated in 4.5 hour shifts. They ate, slept and lived round the clock at HarborCenter.
The Community Shift features a setting of 120 teams playing in 60 games that will last four hours each.
A more manageable format that has opened the door for more people to play.
Co-founders Mike and Amy Lesakowski said response to the first 11 Day Power Play was so great they wanted to bring back a second version that would allow more people to be involved.
David Costantini, who played in the first 11Day Power Play, said he can definitely sympathize with those who were so close, but couldn’t play in the first game. As work and home life had him questioning if he could make the full commitment of 11 days.
Costantini said he loves the thought of a new format which opens the door for more people to get involved.
“This is a much more feasible opportunity for the WNY community to come together and get this done,” Costantini said.
Former Sabre Mike Peca, a dear friend of the Lesakowski’s, was set to play last year. But had to pull out when his doctor told him 11 days of continuous hockey with little rest would be too much of a grind for his surgically repaired knee. This year, Peca will be on the ice with a Sabre alumni squad.
Peter Gallivan, another longtime friend of the Lesakowski’s, was unable to play in last year’s game cause it fell during his daughter Hannah’s graduation day from Kenmore West. Something that Gallivan understandably wanted to be at.
Unable to play, Gallivan used his resources as a reporter at WGRZ-TV to help spread the word of the 11 Day Power Play.
But his desire to help ran deeper than just wanting to give the 11 Day Power Play exposure.
“The main thing was my friendship for a lot of the guys who were taking part. Particularly Mike and Amy,” Gallivan said. “I watched as Mike went through with (the loss of) his mom (Evelyn). I lost my mom and my dad to cancer, and both my mother and father-in-law. I’ve got one sister-in-law who beat it.”
Gallivan said he really wasn’t sure what to think when Mike Lesakowski first told him his idea for 11Day. But soon he found himself swept up by what the Lesakowski’s created and their passion to see their 11 Day mission through.
“I think everyone thought he was crazy to start with,” Gallivan said. “As it started picking up momentum I wanted to do what I could to help them, but also I was looking around and thinking why aren’t more people in the media jumping on this story?”
Gallivan also spoke with great passion about the bond within the WNY hockey community. That sense of always being there for each other.
“To be honest with you I felt a little bit guilty that I wasn’t able to be on the ice with them,” Gallivan said of the first game.
“In particular my next-door neighbor Dan McGee. He played and he and I were linemates in college. I’ve known Dan the better part of 35 years. It’s one of those things where the friendships you develop through things like hockey are extremely deep connections. And you do anything you can for each other.”
Gallivan will be on the ice this year with Hannah and his son, Ben Gallivan, as part of the Tonawanda Lightning Alumni team.
Hage agreed, saying part of getting back on the ice is just re-connecting with the guys as friends.
“You realize you just miss the whole atmosphere,” Hage said. “I think that’s the biggest part and that’s the take away for everything. It’s just about community. Supporting each other and it feels good and you’re doing it for a good cause. I think that’s what’s pulling me back this year. I missed out on so much of that last year. I just want a little bit of a taste of it again this year. ”
Tyler Crawford, who works at the HarborCenter, had a front row view of the 11Day Power Play last summer. This time around Tyler and his younger brother Justin will be joining forces with their dad, Gary Crawford, a cancer survivor-as they suit up for the Lightning Alumni.
“You had this sense of pride that our community was doing this last year,” Crawford said. “The 40 guys who played last year set a world’s record, but now you have even more sense of pride cause you’re able to contribute in your way and kinda leave your mark on this fundraiser to raise money for Roswell, Camp Good Days and Make-A-Wish. You kinda see the direct results of what you’re doing.”