The Saiker’s Acres ice rink in Strathcona County was hopping for 251 hours straight this past February. After 11 days of non-stop hockey, the 2018 World’s Longest Hockey Game fundraiser brought in more than $1.2 million in support of the Alberta Cancer Foundation — while also breaking the previous Guinness World Record for hours played.
Among the thousands of spectators who came out to cheer the players on during the event was Dale Wishewan. In fact, Wishewan hasn’t missed the chance to watch this particular game since the inaugural event launched back in 2003. Despite late hours and temperatures falling below -20˚C, he says there are always crowds of people there to offer support.
“It’s so moving to see how much it means to everyone,” says Wishewan. “When the [players] on the ice see someone holding a sign, or a young boy or girl who has brought their piggy bank in to donate their money, it helps keep them going.”
Wishewan is the CEO of Booster Juice, which has supported the World’s Longest Hockey Game “every year without exception,” he says. The Edmonton-based company supports many different charities each year, but Wishewan says this particular event is close to his heart — and to the hearts of his employees — because cancer affects so many Albertans and the hockey game builds a sense of community while inspiring people to take action.
“It’s great when we can partner with charitable organizations that also have an active component,” says Karen Smola, national marketing manager with Booster Juice. “Because we’re not only giving to a great cause, we’re also engaging the community to take part in an event.”
Booster Juice’s sponsorship amount has grown with each World’s Longest Hockey Game event, and, with a commitment of $25,000 this year, the company was the biggest sponsor of the 2018 game.
“Booster Juice’s contribution created a spark in the community for more people to come on board,” says Carrie Creaser, the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s fund development officer for events. “It was one of those things that was a flicker of the flame that got people
really excited and generated more interest.”
This year’s World’s Longest Hockey Game supported the Terry Fox Research Institute’s PROFYLE program, which focuses on gene sequencing in pediatric cancer. Approximately 150 to 200 children in Alberta are diagnosed with cancer every year, and a considerable number of childhood cancers are incurable. By testing young patients’ DNA, the national PROFYLE program hopes to find out why youth get certain types of cancer while also providing personalized, precision treatment.
“It’s a terrible disease,” says Wishewan. “We’ve all been touched by cancer in so many ways. It’s nice to be able to know from our end that we can help make a difference … if even a few people can be saved by the [PROFYLE program], it’s worth it.”
With Alberta’s economy still suffering from low oil prices, Wishewan says he felt compelled to donate more this year because he expected that a lot of other Albertans wouldn’t be able to chip in as much as usual. He says Booster Juice has had a number of continuous successful years, and that the company will continue to support the World’s Longest Hockey Game fundraiser in the future.
“The volunteers and players at this event work so hard, and that’s not an easy thing,” he says. “I think it’s phenomenal that they know it’s going to be uncomfortable and difficult, but there they are — they get back out and do the same thing the next time. We look forward to being an even bigger supporter of this event the next time they do it again, too.”