Interview with Jonathan Quonce

by | Apr 12, 2024

What is/are your personal experience(s) with cancer?
My grandmother died from pancreatic cancer shortly after I graduated college and that was my first real close person to me to battle cancer. She fought as long as she could, however she was unable to win that fight. My second was my childhood friend Trevor Lanigan, who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and battled very hard, but ultimately lost his fight. He was only in his 30s. That was the first time I witnessed someone my age be diagnosed and fight like that. It became real to me that cancer, unfortunately, does not discriminate, and to realize my own mortality at a young age.

How did you learn of the The 11 Day Power Play?
I learned about the 11DPP during its first year and thought it was just the coolest thing to play a marathon game of hockey around the clock for 11 days total. But it was the following year, when it expanded to the Community Shift, and teams started to assemble that I became a part of this event. I was lucky enough that my best friend and fellow coach, Alex Bielecki, had his Canisus High School hockey team put together an “alumni team” of sorts. But they needed more players to fill out the roster to make the shift happen, and, specifically to me, they needed goalies. I jumped at the opportunity and the rest, as they say, is history. Little did we know that when this all started that the team we created, the Crusaders, would become one of the first seven teams in Community Shift history to raise $100,00 for the 11DPP!

Who/what do you skate for?
I mean, so many people through the years and I wish it wasn’t that way. If we could just find a cure for this disease.
Last year I skated for Ryder Maciaszek, a young man local to me from Rochester, NY who is one of the toughest boys I have ever met. He has been battling way more than anyone should, especially for a child, but his resilience, positive attitude and, ultimately, his fight are something to behold. In Rochester, we have a “Ryder’s Army” skate that I have had the honor to participate in and I wanted to be sure that Ryder, Ryder’s story and his never quit attitude were brought to the 11DPP. There are so many kids like Ryder out there that deserve to beat this disease and live a normal childhood and life. And Ryder will do just that. He’s just so tough and inspirational that I’d take him into battle each and every time.
My son, Nathan, played in honor of a former hockey teammate’s older brother, Kyle O’Donnell. The O’Donnell family are very close friends of ours, even outside of the hockey connection that Nathan and Liam O’Donnell have. We have known each other for many years and while Kyle was in his teen years, he was diagnosed with cancer and has been fighting ever since. Also local to us here in Rochester, Nathan and I participate in Kyle’s Slapshot Challenge, raising money for Golisano Children’s hospital in Kyle’s name. To bring Kyle’s name and Kyle’s courageous story to the 11DPP was important to us as family. These stories are important to tell and share and we are doing our best to do just that.

What are some of your best 11 Day memories?
My first memory is the first shift we ever did as the Crusaders, which was a 4 hour shift then. Just being a part of it and pushing yourself and the marathon of it all was incredible, even if the legs were shaky at the end. Nothing can replace the inaugural shift. It totally lived up to the hype and expectations and was likely the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey in the middle of the night…..the shift was 10pm-2am that first year and I wouldn’t have changed that for the world, looking back on it!
That first Community Shift as the Crusaders has led to the team playing every year since and raising over 100,000 as a team to date. We have also incorporated the Jack and Max Paradowski Memorial trophy for our shift every year to the winning side. Our Crusaders team captain, Mark Paradowski, and his wife Chrissy were expecting triplets when they sadly lost Jack and Max during the pregnancy. As a band of brothers often do, everyone came together. A trophy was created in their memory and presented on ice that year to Mark and Chrissy and most importantly, their daughter Larkin, in remembrance of Jack and Max. There was not a dry eye in the house during that presentation night and the memorial trophy lives on each and every year, coupled with the money raised for the 11DPP.
My favorite memory, unquestionably, was last year’s event where my son Nathan (14 years old) got to join the Crusaders for the first time, and we split the shift as a goalie tandem. Nathan, who traditionally plays forward but can play goalie in a pinch, took the first hour in net while I played forward. We then switched positions during the first ice cut, and I took the last two hours in net while he went up to forward. To see him in my goalie gear head to toe for his first ever shift was pretty surreal as a father. Then to have him playing in front of me while I was in net was the icing on the cake, as they say. Knowing that we both raised money to help cancer research and that he is now an official Crusader carrying the torch forward is a great feeling and proud father moment. We got to be real hockey teammates for the first time which as a father/coach, was very special to me.

What do you recommend to anyone thinking of being a part of the event?
Absolutely do it! Do it and get your friends to do it. Then get their friends to do it and have them get their friends to do it. There isn’t a person out there that hasn’t been affected by cancer in some way so why not fight alongside those true warriors that fight this disease. If you want to feel good about yourself and what you and your teammates are able to accomplish, this is the event, hands down. And it’s hockey, hours and hours of hockey for a great cause!


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