The puck officially dropped on this year’s 11 Day Power Play Community shift Wednesday night with opening ceremonies at Harborcenter to kick off 11 straight days of nonstop hockey to fight cancer.
The event is the brainchild of Amy and Mike Lesakowski. After cancer hit their family, they hit back with a fundraiser and a hockey game for the record books that’s grown over the years.
“We set out to break a world record here in Buffalo and we did that with 40 players right here at Harborcenter and Buffalo embraced this event in 2017,” Amy said.
“It was supposed to be a one year novel idea to raise money for Roswell Park and we did it,” Mike added. “We did a great job and had tremendous community support and when it was over, Amy and I just looked at each other and said we have to continue to do something because it was so well accepted.”
The 11DPP is in its seventh year and over that time, they have raised over $9 million. That includes making the community shift happen during COVID. They took the game off the ice indoors to street hockey outdoors and still hit the mark when it came to raising money.
“We call that one the big save, which is kind of cool,” Mike said. “Very proud of that year because as you said, there was not anything going on. But we found a way to do it within the rules and we talked to the local officials and health officials and they allowed us to do it in a way. And we raised over $1 million and that’s a testament to tour community.”
This year, more than 2,300 skaters – men, women and children of all skill levels – are looking to raise another $1.6 million. Two teams will take the ice every three hours for 11 straight days.
“You know, it’s grueling,” Amy said. “I mean its three hours, but they know it’s nothing compared to what cancer patients go through and they want to do it again. More and more players are playing multiple shifts. On average, I’d say two shifts.”
And why there is 11 days of hockey is not lost.
“It’s emotional to see someone right down who’s loved one is battling or may have passed from cancer so that’s the real reason we do this and those stories just drive us to do this because you see that it helps,” Mike explained. “From the person playing to giving back to a cause that’s helping someone and in honor of someone who may passed, so as I tell others, we do not take our eye off the ball we know why we are doing this, it’s not just a hockey game, it’s a deep cause than that.”
The 11 Day Power Play runs through July 1.