When the game stands tall

The Compass - - SPORTS - Ni­cholas Mercer Ni­cholas Mercer is a re­porter/pho­tog­ra­pher with The Com­pass news­pa­per in Car­bon­ear. He lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached at nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

When Ottawa Se­na­tors goal­tender Craig An­der­son hit the ice at Rogers Place in Ed­mon­ton just over a week ago, he did so with a heavy heart.

Just a few days be­fore the game, An­der­son left the team on its western swing to deal with a fam­ily cri­sis — his wife Ni­cholle had been di­ag­nosed with cancer.

For all of their con­fi­dence and zeal, pro­fes­sional ath­letes aren’t sup­posed to be seen like they have any weak­nesses.

They’re sup­posed to be in­vin­ci­ble. That’s what the av­er­age fans be­lieve, any­way.

They be­lieve be­ing a pro­fes­sional ath­lete gives them an aura of in­vul­ner­a­bil­ity mak­ing them more Su­per­man than Av­er­age Joe.

See­ing An­der­son in pain grabbed the at­ten­tion of the pub­lic. Sud­denly, here was this ath­lete deal­ing with a dis­ease that has played a fac­tor in the lives of ev­ery­one.

As we’ve found out be­fore, cancer doesn’t care about what you do for a liv­ing or your fam­ily sit­u­a­tion.

It strikes each of us in dif­fer­ent, yet equally dev­as­tat­ing, ways. Maybe it’s not di­rectly, but in one way or another, cancer makes sure we know its name.

In Ed­mon­ton, An­der­son wrote an amaz­ing chap­ter in the story. He made all 37 saves re­quired of him in his team’s 2-0 vic­tory over the high oc­tane Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers.

The game ended as it was sup­posed to.

A string of in­juries in Ottawa brought An­der­son back to the crease at the be­hest of Ni­cholle. The team needed him and she knew that.

With­out doubt, he would’ve rather been at her side as she be­gins what will prob­a­bly be the hard­est fight of her life.

The game stood tall for An­der­son that night.

Sport has this way of know­ing when ath­letes need a bit of help. As if there re­ally are gods of sport, the games know when things are sup­posed to go the right way.

An­der­son got the game he de­served that Sun­day night.

At the end of his night, An­der­son was named on of the game’s three stars — a nightly tra­di­tion meant to rec­og­nize a game’s top play­ers. One has to think he would’ve got­ten it any­way given the cir­cum­stances.

It took in­cred­i­ble strength to put him­self through a game know­ing what was wait­ing for him at home.

While An­der­son did a short spin in front of the vis­i­tor’s bench in Ed­mon­ton, Oil­ers’ keeper Cam Talbot stood on the other bench clap­ping his hands.

My guess is he felt com­pelled to be there and sup­port his goal­tend­ing brother. Talbot might not be di­rectly af­fected by cancer, but he prob­a­bly knows some­one who is.

It was enough to draw him back to the bench and stand with An­der­son.

In the end, sport does what it al­ways does — it brought us to­gether.

For more in­for­ma­tion on cancer re­search and how you can do­nate to the cause, visit the Cana­dian Cancer So­ci­ety web­site at www.cancer.ca.

In the end, sport does what it al­ways does — it brought us to­gether.

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