Battling for my life
Former Toronto Maple Leafs trainer Scott McKay is helping raise awareness and
money through Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer.
Tie Domi looks on as his good buddy and cancer
survivor, Scott McKay, speaks to over 1,300 Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer
participants. McKay, the former Leafs equipment manager, is an Honorary Chair
for the event, which is heading into its 5th year in 2015.
Photo courtesy of Mike Palmer Photography
TORONTO, ON -- Crisp jerseys flying up and down the ice on razor-sharp
skates. Gloves gripping a stick that's been modified specifically to
the player's preferences. Helmets and masks that fit perfectly.
Occasionally, a trainer appears on the screen. They might be mentioned
during a game broadcast a few times during a season, but for the most
part their work is taken for granted by fans.
They are not taken for granted by the players, however.
nothing quiet about the appreciation hockey players have for the
trainers who get them ready to succeed on a nightly basis. In the NHL,
the trainers are part of the team as much as the coaches and players.
And the bond between the men on the ice and those in the tunnel or
back in the dressing room is strong.
Scott McKay was one of those who served behind the scenes, working as
a trainer for the Toronto Maple Leafs until 2006. In his role with the
Leafs, he was able to develop relationships with players from all over
the world as they represented the franchise -- together -- on a
But in 2012, six years after leaving the organization, McKay found
that he was the one who needed help now.
It was cancer.
The word itself draws a wide range of emotions, from depression to
hate. Unfortunately, the disease has touched everyone in some way.
Statistically, every three minutes another Canadian is diagnosed with
cancer. From family members to coworkers, teammates or neighbors, it
has become impossible to avoid being impacted by cancer.
When McKay received his diagnosis, it would change his life -- and
And the hockey community was there for him.
"We all come from hard-working backgrounds, and for the most part
hockey people want to help out other hockey people," he said.
"Hockey's the one sport that I've come across where pretty much every
guy -- you do battle on the ice, but once the gear is off we're all
the same... You've worked so hard with people, it's nice to see people
coming out and doing little things that mean a lot."
players who stepped up for McKay were Mats Sundin and Tie Domi, who
took part in a
promotional video for an organization
with which McKay got involved quickly after his diagnosis, Road Hockey
to Conquer Cancer.
In 2013, McKay was still very sick. But he found a way to battle
"My first year involved, I was actually in the hospital doing my stem
cell transplant during the tournament," McKay recalled. "I wasn't sure
if I would even be able to get out. I made a handshake agreement with
the doctors to let me out to give my speech and fulfill my duties and
then come back that day."
As he battled through the tough road to beating the disease, McKay was
able to apply aspects of his role with the Leafs to the fight. But he
still learned a lot about himself, and the cancer community.
"The level of intensity that it takes to work at the top level in the
NHL... I put that same frame of mind into my treatments and what I was
going through," he said. "I was battling for my life, but I never
thought of it that way. It was a hockey mentality. Everybody goes
through tough patches in life or with a job, but what makes a person
is what you do when the chips are down."
McKay is now getting back to full health, and is excited to once again
be a part of a tremendous event this weekend.
On Sept. 26, this coming Saturday, at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto,
an all-day road hockey tournament will give hundreds of fans and
players a way to celebrate the game they love -- and combat a disease
we all hate.
One unique aspect of the tournament is the ability for teams to take
part in a celebrity draft. Dozens of former NHL and Olympic players
and television personalities take part in the tournament each year.
Once a team raises $15,000, they get to take part in a fantasy draft
and select celebrities to play with them. The top 50 teams that raise
over $15,000 will get to pick a celebrity in the draft. After the
draft, celebrities are assigned to teams.
Among the celebrities scheduled to be at the event this year are Eric
Lindros, Glenn Healy, Johnny Bower, Todd Shapiro, Paul Henderson, Bob
Baun and Ron Ellis.
While the central component of the Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer is
hundreds of road hockey games, but there will also be musical acts,
celebrity appearances, interactive activities, food and beverages.
"Cancer impacts everyone eventually," McKay added. "If I can raise
awareness or help people get through this by talking about my
experiences, then that's what I'll do. It's a terrible disease."
Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer benefits The Princess Margaret Cancer
Foundation. To learn more about the Foundation, visit