“Where’s a Sharpie?" Ian Laperriere asked excitedly after Monday morning’s pregame practice. Who’s got a Sharpie?” The gregarious assistant coach was serious this time. He needed a marker. A good one.
Flyers director of community relations Jason Tempesta was still hanging the poignant signs with the assistance of former Broad Street Bully Bob Kelly and others when Lappy elbowed his way in.
Monday is “Hockey Fights Cancer” night and Tempesta was decorating the walls of the tunnel between the Flyers locker room and the ice with placards saluting those who were afflicted with the disease. Some are no longer with us.
“It’s both my favorite night of the year,” said Tempesta looking at the sign saluting his mother, Mary, who is battling lung cancer, “and my least favorite.”
It’s a bittersweet affair being held to raise awareness and funds to fight cancer. Toyota is giving five grand to the Peter Powerhouse Cancer Group, whose mission is to provide support for families fighting pediatric cancer.
Laperriere wanted to remember his father, as well as a woman he’s become friends with from the area.
“It touches everybody, if you scratch deep enough,” Laperriere said. “For me, it touched right through my heart when we lost my dad 16 years ago. He was 55 years old. Pancreatic cancer took him away. Then I moved to Philly and met somebody who is battling through cancer."
Right next to the sign for Michel Laperriere is one for Jackie Castaldi, who will be at tonight’s game against the Canucks (7 p.m., NBCSP).
“I try to help her out, to cheer her up a little bit,” Laperriere said. "She loves our team so much.”
The Wells Fargo Center will be decorated in lavender and a number of ceremonies will be held featuring cancer fighters. Eight-year-old Cameron Wakely, of Quakertown, will handle the opening puck drop while 14-year-old West Deptford resident Zach Steward will act as honorary team coach.
“I know hockey is a business, but this is real life,” Laperriere concluded. “Our job is not life or death. Those people on these walls – some of these people – are still fighting. It brings everything back into perspective.”
With that, Laperriere put down his marker and pulled out his cell phone. He just couldn’t wait to send Jackie Castaldi a picture of her sign.