The NHL is counting on a unique push from its seven Canada-based teams to promote the efforts of the Canadian Cancer Society with a social media campaign during National Hockey Fights Cancer Day on Thursday.
The campaign is in support of Hockey Fights Cancer, a joint initiative of the NHL and NHL Players’ Association that takes place each November and rallies the hockey community to help those with cancer and their families through awareness and fundraising efforts in Canada and the United States. It’s a lot different this year. Concerns surrounding the coronavirus have delayed the 2020-21 NHL season with the League targeting a start date of Jan. 1, preventing players and teams from showcasing lavender stick tape and wearing Hockey Fights Cancer jerseys during warmups.
Without games, the Canadian Cancer Society is thinking unconventionally with support from the NHL. The social media campaign by the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets is one aspect of this approach.
“We’ve done a little bit more in terms of creating some storytelling pieces this year for social for the NHL and for partners to speak to some of the individual stories of young players that have gone through a cancer journey and this sort of thing,” said Brad Stevenson, senior manager of campaign planning for the Canadian Cancer Society. “Digital engagement is going to be a far bigger piece this year for us.”
But the awareness efforts will go beyond that. The CN Tower in Toronto will be lit in lavender Nov. 18, followed by BC Place, a stadium in Vancouver, on Nov. 28.
Canadians can donate or register to host a fundraiser (cancer.ca/hockeyfightscancer), buy HFC apparel and spread the word on social media using #HockeyFightsCancer.
Though about 225,800 Canadians are expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year and more than 83,000 are expected to die from it, the five-year survival rate has increased from about 25 percent in the 1940s to 63 percent. Survival rates for childhood, breast and prostate cancers are higher at 84 percent, 88 percent and 93 percent, respectively.
“Our call to action is please, please donate,” Stevenson said. “This has been an enormously challenging year for us. As we live in isolation and are separated this year, the support services have never been more important. People are waiting longer for surgeries, waiting longer for elective appointments both in the [United States] and in Canada and hospitals are overwhelmed. And that’s an anxiety-producing thing.”
The NHL and NHLPA, through consultation with teams and partners and the cancer-fighting community struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, decided to keep Hockey Fights Cancer in November.
“We are very supportive of the decision to move forward,” Stevenson said. “Obviously any exposure and awareness is good, and typically Canadians would be looking to the program this month.”