WATCH ABOVE: The World’s Longest Hockey Game is nearing the end out at Saiker’s Acres. Shallima Maharaj speaks with five men who have played in all five editions of the record-setting game.
EDMONTON — There’s no doubt it takes strength and willpower to get through a marathon hockey game. But what about doing it five times? That’s the reality for five men at the World’s Longest Hockey Game, who are nearing the end of 10 days of non-stop hockey.
Curtis Sieben, Darcy Humeniuk, Jouni Nieminen, Randy Allan and Brent Saik, who organizes the game, have participated in every edition of the game at Saiker’s Acres since its inception in 2003. And they’re just as passionate about the record-setting game and its cause today as they were 12 years ago.
“It’s awesome. I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” said Sieben.
“It’s just a great experience, it’s unbelievable,” added Nieminen.
The first game was held in 2003, in honour of Saik’s father, Terry, who lost his battle with cancer in 1994. Back then, getting into the record books only took the 40 hockey players 82 hours, compared to the whopping 250 hours they are striving for this week.
“When we played the game it was 40 guys sleeping on cots in the garage,” said Humeniuk. “It’s quite a change.”
“That game was harder, by the way,” Saik said with a laugh. “We had nothing. We had no food, no showers for people at the first game. And to think of where we’re at now is crazy.”
The game, which raises funds for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, was played again in 2005, 2008, 2011 and now in 2015. Each time, the game has gotten longer and the original five men have gotten older.
Playing hockey is tough at the best of times, but when you’re playing three to seven-hour shifts, day and night, through all that winter weather in Edmonton can bring, needless to say it takes a toll on the body.
“Everybody’s got their own little tricks or secrets,” said Humeniuk. “There’s a lot of duct tape going on the feet and blister pads and things like that.”
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But while it can be grueling, the players say what they’re going through is nothing compared to what those fighting cancer battle every day. Many, if not all of the players have a personal connection with the disease and say it’s all the motivation they need to step out on the ice each and very shift.
“Just about everybody out there has been touched by cancer in one way or another,” said Allan. “It also shows you how powerful cancer has been in our community … I’ve got family members that have fallen to cancer and my mother-in-law is a survivor, so it just seems like a no-brainer.”
“I lost my dad a couple months before the 2010 game and that’s when it hit home,” said Sieben. “When it hits really close to home like that, when you see it right in front of your eyes, you can’t say no to it.
“They’re fighting a way harder battle than we are out there on the ice, there’s no doubt about that,” Sieben continued.
“When it’s all said and done we get to go home to our families and they just have to keep battling.”
“As Canadians I think it’s our responsibility to help each other and this is the least we can do,” said Nieminen.
“What keeps me going? I can’t go an hour or two without seeing one of my buddies out there crying because of a story,” said Saik. “I saw two kids today that, both of have been treated with the machines that we purchased and they’re enjoying their experience out here.”
And the support of the army of volunteers, hundreds of visitors and countless donors certainly helps.
“It’s not just playing hockey for 10 days, there’s a tremendous amount of support,” explained Humeniuk. “The amount of volunteers and people stepping up to the plate to donate food and pucks and you name it, it’s pretty overwhelming.”
Plus, once the game is over and the players see what they, along with the community, have accomplished, somehow the memories of all those aches and pains just slip away.
“You don’t remember the hurt and the long nights and the lack of sleep, you just remember the good feelings at the end,” said Nieminen. “It’s unbelievable.”
“During and immediately after you think, ‘I’m never doing this again.’ But then over time, once you’ve seen what you’ve accomplished … you do think differently and you think maybe I will do it again,” said Allan.
And while this may be the last World’s Longest Hockey Game for a couple of the original five, Saik says the event is far from over.
“I just believe in it. We wouldn’t do this if I didn’t believe that people would come and this could raise money,” he said. “This is Edmonton, this is what we do.”
The World’s Longest Hockey Game wraps up around 6 p.m. Monday. For more information on the event, visit the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s website.
Directions: Take Wye Road east from Sherwood Park towards Ardrossan. Turn south on Range Road 220, you will see a Laughing Llama gas station. Continue south for about 2 kilometres. The entrance to Saiker’s Acres will be on your left ,with signage directing you to the parking area.
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