David Glen, assistant captain of the Penn State University Nittany Lions hockey team, has a fan he has never met and will likely never meet.
All he knows about her is she is old enough to be his mother, but has no idea if she has her own family or even where she lives. She may very well never have seen a hockey game.
But this week, she is his No. 1 fan. He, after all, is the one who might save her life.
The 22-year-old forward from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., has removed himself from his college team this week – a week in which the Lions have played Boston College and are heading into a two-game series against Ohio State.
Given the Penn State team was struggling at 4-14-1 when last year’s leading goal-scorer decided to sit out for three critical games, while perfectly healthy, it might seem the Nittany Lions are a team in crisis.
Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.
More than a year ago, Glen and his hockey teammates took swab tests to see if they might be a possible match for a bone marrow donation that could help the mother of one of the players on the school’s lacrosse team.
None turned out to be the answer. However, the Be The Match program kept the test results and, last fall, the young hockey player was notified he was a perfect match for an older woman whose only hope might be a process known as peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) transplantation.
He was told it would be a five-day process involving a series of injections leading into Tuesday’s extraction of blood so doctors can collect only the blood-forming cells and then return to remaining blood through a needle in his other arm.
Then, comes a week to 10 days for recovery, during which he may suffer various symptoms from pain to feeling flu-like. As the woman’s health was setting the timetable, not the Penn State hockey team, it would have to happen as soon as possible.
Glen immediately called home. His father was taken aback, unsure what to tell his youngest child.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” says John Glen, an Edmonton-area car dealer. “I was hesitant, to be honest. I suggested he do the research, ask the appropriate people the appropriate questions and get educated and take it from there.
“He’s old enough to make his own decisions.
“At first, I wasn’t even positive what the procedures were,” David Glen says. “There are two different types. There’s the bone marrow transplant and the PBSC. I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into, but after some research I was 100 per cent for it. I think it’s a rare opportunity.
“It just seemed like the right thing to do and the only thing to do.”
What about the team, though? Nervously, he asked for a meeting with head coach Guy Gadowsky, one of several on the hockey club with Alberta roots.
Gadowsky had no idea what the meeting was going to be about. Ice time? School problems? But once he heard what the team’s assistant captain was proposing to do, the coach gave his full support – even if it meant losing one of his top players for three crucial matches.
Glen’s teammates were the same: Go for it.
“We do have games,” the young player says, “but in the long run, it is just a game. In some people’s eyes this might be a big sacrifice, but I think it’s one that’s easily justifiable in order to give someone a second chance at living again.”
Glen grew up in a town so mad for hockey it has produced an inordinate number of NHLers, including Joffrey Lupul of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ray Whitney of the Dallas Stars.
He wanted to be Pavel Bure – had posters of the Vancouver Canucks star on his wall, slept in hockey sheets – and had a Saskatchewan-born father who had once played professional hockey in Australia.
Superstardom, however, was not in the books. He was small and never drafted by the major-junior teams.
Penn State scouted him when he played for the Spruce Grove, Alta., juniors and – a late bloomer, as well as one who grew late to 6-foot-1 and 186 pounds – offered a partial scholarship to come and play for the Nittany Lions, where he has blossomed into an excellent two-way player, happy to block shots and a key component of the team’s penalty kill.
In other words, the consummate team player.
There are times, however, when he wonders who this woman is he will be trying to save. They gave him nothing but generalities – sex of the recipient, rough age – and everything else remains a mystery.
“If all goes according to plan,” he says, “then I believe if she would like to track me down, then they would make sure she was able to. But if not, that’s fine with me, too.
“I don’t really mind that I don’t know who it is. I know that I’m at least giving her a second chance – and that’s all I can do for my part.”
“He’s not a really outgoing boy,” his father says. “I think he’s having some regrets with any attention that’s come on him over this. That’s in no way shape or form why he’s doing this. He doesn’t want to be portrayed as ‘That Guy’ who did this just to be noticed. He did it because it’s the right thing to do.
“It’s not about him. It’s about the person who needs the help.”
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