Sharon Jackson knew time was running short. Her fight against cancer was about to end. The family talked about bringing home her grandson, who was off chasing his hockey dreams at a summer tryout camp.
“She told my mom and dad that she wants me to stay there and make the team,” Patrick Kaleta said. “She wanted me to continue to play hockey.”
Kaleta made that team in 2001, then kept climbing to junior hockey, the minor leagues and the NHL. Along the way, he honored his late “Grandma J.”
“Before every game I played for the Sabres, during the national anthem, I’d say a prayer to her and thank her,” Kaleta said. “I wrote her initials on every hockey stick.”
The 35-year-old doesn’t play often anymore, retiring in 2016 and spending his days as president and coach of the Buffalo Junior Sabres. But Kaleta always makes an exception for the 11 Day Power Play, an annual cancer fundraiser in Buffalo.