Hockey teams often become families.
Members of Robert Morris University's men's hockey team said that's why they're working to raise money for the team's 2010-2011 captain, Chris Kushneriuk, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer this past summer.
Kushneriuk's diagnosis came as a shock to his former Colonials teammates.
“I was shocked, it’s just so unrealistic to think that something like this can happen to someone you know, so it really hits you hard especially when it’s someone that was such a huge influence in your life,” said redshirt junior, Andrew Blazek.
“It really made me realize that anyone can have this kind of thing happen to them," Blazek said.
“Any time that you hear one of your friends and former teammates has something like that it’s shocking,” senior goaltender, Eric Levine said.
“It was quite scary because you know what kind of person he is and you’re just hoping that it isn’t going to be anything too serious,” Levine said.
Senior forward Zach Hervato first learned of the news during Canada Day weekend and broke the news to other teammates that were at his home.
“Kush was supposed to come over that night, and he sent me a message privately saying he couldn’t make it because he found out he has testicular cancer,” said Hervato.
After hearing about the news, Hervato didn’t want to believe that it was possible.
“Just coming from a guy that was so huge to our program, you would never think that a healthy young professional hockey player can go through something like that,” said Hervato.
The team is currently working on different fundraising projects to help out not only Kushneriuk but also various cancer-related charities.
“My AdClub made a couple of posters that we are going to display at games and do just whatever we can to help out,” said Blazek.
“Kush really wanted us not to focus on just him but on testicular cancer, prostate cancer, and other cancer research organizations that will not help him solely but other people too,” said Hervato. “He doesn’t like having the spotlight on him.”
Along with selling wristbands, the team will also participate in their Movember campaign again this year. Last year, the team raised over $5,000 and they are looking to do the same again this year.
“We’ve already sold 300 bracelets, and now we’re getting 200 more. Those are helping to raise awareness and funding for what Kush is going through right now,” said Hervato. “We’re going to start the Movember team just like I did last year, and we’re going to be a huge part of that again. I’ve actually been in contact with the main office about Kush. They’ve been great.”
“Whether people knew Chris or not, the majority of people out there have been touched or affected by cancer in one way or another,” said senior defenseman, Tyler Hinds. “So I think it’s just a great cause to donate to.”
Hervato also noted that “guys become leaders and guys were born leaders and Kush was a born leader.”
He went on to say that he was an important member of not only the RMU hockey community but the Robert Morris University community as a whole.
“He was someone that everybody even the coaches looked up to,” said Hervato. “He was just an inspirational guy on and off the ice.”
“Kush was probably one of the best captains I’ve had,” added Levine. “He was the type of player that would do anything he could to help his teammates.”
To help raise money for his treatments and hospital bills the men’s hockey team is selling blue bracelets that read “RMU Krushes Cancer.”
The wristbands are being sold for $3 to students, but additional donations are welcome.
The team will be selling the bracelets at their first home game of the regular season, which will take place on Saturday Oct. 27 against Air Force. If you are unable to attend that game and would still like to purchase a bracelet, please send a self addressed stamped envelope along with a check or money order for $5 to RMU Hockey: 6001 University Blvd, Moon Township, PA 15108.
In addition to that, the team will be holding an autograph session where donations for a team picture/autographs are going to Kushneriuk during their series on Nov. 2 and 3 against Bentley.
—by Brooke Smith