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The Globe and Mail

Hockey players hit the road for cancer research

Tyler McGregor was only 16 when doctors amputated his leg where cancer had taken hold. For a rising hockey star who played centre at the elite AAA-level, the loss of his leg was crushing.

One year later, Mr. McGregor has a prosthetic leg and is ready to grab a stick Saturday at the inaugural road hockey fundraiser for cancer research.

"The chemo was awful, but hearing that my leg was going to be amputated, I was beyond shocked. I just wanted to know if I could ever play hockey again," Mr. McGregor said. "I guess that's why I want to do it ... so that other people wouldn't have to go through what I did."

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Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer, the official name of Saturday's event, has already pulled in more than $2-million in donations. Each team of eight to 10 players must raise a minimum of $10,000 to participate in the one-day "dawn-to-dusk" road hockey event at Ontario Place. Proceeds go towards cancer research at the Princess Margaret Hospital and the Canadian Cancer Society.

Celebrities such as Alexandre Bilodeau, the first Canadian to win a gold medal at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, and former Montreal Canadiens player Claude Lemieux will lend some of their star power to the event.

"I lived in a hospital for nearly nine months, and I wanted to give back to it," said Mr. McGregor, now 17, who is learning to skate on his new prosthetic leg. The Forest, Ont., native has raised about $3,600 for the event, and hopes to become an oncologist himself.

About 1,500 players have signed up, and many, such as Mr. McGregor, will wrap yellow tape around their hockey sticks to show they are cancer survivors. The event is the first for which the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society have teamed up.

"We have our lotteries and our run, but then we thought we wanted to put up a charity event that spoke to a 25- to 40-year-old guy, and what says it better than hockey?" said Steve Merker, vice-president of business development at Princess Margaret.

Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer has already been billed as the largest fundraising tournament of its kind in the world, but with the donations almost tallied, Mr. Merker added "this might even be a world record with $2-million raised from a road hockey event."

Mr. Merker said the foundation hopes to stage similar events in other cities across the country.

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