After 10 straight days, the World’s Longest Hockey Game, played east of Edmonton, has come to an end.
The game, which raises money for cancer research, began on Feb. 4 with a goal of raising $1.5 million to support life-saving cancer research at the University of Alberta to benefit patients at the Cross Cancer Institute.
The game wrapped up at 6 a.m. Monday, after 252 hours. As of Monday morning, the group of 40 players raised $1.84 million and counting.
“Shucks,” an emotional Brent Saik said after the celebratory fireworks went off to mark the end of the 10-day feat. Saik is the organizer of the game out at Saikers Acres in Strathcona County.
“I’m very proud of the people that rallied around and did everything that was necessary to make this happen.”
With strict COVID-19 protocols in place, this year’s game looked and felt much different than years past. In previous years, the hockey fundraiser welcomed hundreds of fans to the site to cheer on players. This year, there was a drive-thru area but spectators were not allowed. There were also far fewer volunteers on site to keep the game and players going.
“It was a bit of a skeleton crew this year. I always thank 800 volunteers after every game. This time I’m thanking 10 and it’s unbelievable,” Saik said Monday morning.
“It’s unbelievable what a small little force can do.”
Much of the game was played with an extreme cold warning in place. Temperatures dipped into the mid -40s without the wind chill. The conditions led to frozen propane tanks and frostbite. The extreme cold even caused pucks to freeze and shatter on impact. One night, the crew lost upwards of 50 pucks to the elements.
“There were some challenges. When it was -54 out here and 40-kilometre an hour winds, we weren’t going that fast. But you know what? Nobody ever gave up, we rallied together,” participant Andrew Buchanan said after the game ended.
A firefighter, Buchanan dedicate his game to first responders going through their own battles.
“I came out here to fight for every brother and sister in the fire service that’s struggling with cancer.”
He described the game as an emotional roller-coaster but said everyone involved was an absolute warrior.
“But still, nothing compared to what these cancer patients are going through,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter what the score was in this game. We came here with one goal and that was to help cure cancer and we’re well on our way.”
Many of this year’s 40 players were taking part in the game for the first time. Saik said it was incredible to see everyone come together for the common goal.
“The troops were unreal. A lot being new people, had no idea what they’re getting involved in. Just eyes wide open and wanted to take it all in and they did. They took every piece of advice that was needed, they listened and they talked and gave advice. Everything that they did was perfect,” he said.
“I’m so proud of the players and the volunteers,” he continued. “Nothing came in and nothing went out and I am very happy that I can say, ‘Go home to your families safely.’ They did a great job of respecting things we had to respect.”
The fundraiser was granted an exemption by Alberta Health to be able to go forward this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said it was determined to be in the public interest to proceed.
The final score of the game was 2,649 for Team Hope (red) to 2,528 for Team Cure (white).
Those who took part say they’re looking forward to the next rendition of the WLHG when families and fans are welcomed back to the site.
The game is still accepting donations. For more information on the WLHG, visit their website.