Long, worthy goal to play longest hockey game

Alex Halat and a group of Calgarians are planning to break Edmonton's recent world record for the...

Alex Halat and a group of Calgarians are planning to break Edmonton's recent world record for the longest hockey game. (QMI Agency)

Eric Francis, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

CALGARY - There won’t be much backchecking and no one will be able to keep their shifts short. But a group of Calgarians are committed to breaking the world record for the longest hockey game next spring.

Inspired by the story of six-year-old Diamond Marshall and her valiant fight against cancer, a group of oil patch workers have formed the core of a 40-man roster that will attempt to play hockey for 11 days straight in May.

As per Guinness World Record stipulations, every player must leave his family and job to spend all 254 hours at the Chestermere Rec Centre. That means sleeping in a rink, as part of a grueling schedule that will see players rotate through four straight hours of hockey, before getting eight hours off. That’s four hours of five-on-five hockey with one spare apiece.

“A four hour shift is going to be hard,” admitted organizer Alex Halat, a former Calgary Royals enforcer who “wanted to pay it forward” following the tremendous support his brother Moe received during his recent victory over cancer.

“It’s going to be shinny. If anyone thinks they’re going to backcheck, they’re getting a two-hander across the back of the legs.”

Working closely with Guinness officials in England to confirm the record to beat is 243 hours (set this summer by women in North Bay, Ont.), Halat has drawn largely from participants in the annual

Oilympics hockey tourney that has raised over $1 million for local charities over the years.

Lyall Marshall has been part of that group for years and has run his own fundraising hockey event after losing his wife — Diamond’s mother — to a rare pregnancy-related cancer. Thus, it seemed a natural fit for Halat to dedicate the Oilympics Hockey Marathon to Diamond in an attempt to raise more than $1.2 million for the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, where the adorable six-year-old spends most of her time battling stage 4 undifferentiated sarcoma.

“It’s overwhelming — I can’t believe the community and the boys want to do this,” said Marshall, who will play in the game.

“I guess they just care about Diamond and the cause as much as I do.”

If Diamond sounds familiar, it likely stems from her unforgettable meeting with Princess Catherine last summer when she greeted the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the Calgary airport with flowers.

She was granted the opportunity by the Children’s Wish Foundation following her heart-wrenching letter to the royal couple, professing her love for princesses and the fact she was named after Princess Diana who “is in heaven with my mommy.”

Her emotional hug of Catherine gave this city one of its most beautiful moments.

“It’s all about giving back and this is an easy thing to do,” said the game’s elder-statesman Dean Mikalauskas, 52, who joked that he misread the invite as being 24 hours instead of 246.

“Lyall’s family, like so many others, is dealing with their challenges 24/7. For me to give up 11 days is nothing and no matter how hard this may be, it does not compare to what these people have to go through every day.”

Halat has already lined up numerous sponsors for the May 6-16 event and urges others to get involved by visiting hockeymarathon.com.

Halat’s brother, Moe, hopes his recovery from major cancer surgery has progressed to the point he can get involved as a scorekeeper or volunteer.

“I wanted to pay it forward for what everyone has done for me and my family,” Alex said.

“I have two young ones and I want to help other kids.”

Diamond is not cancer-free and faces a few more significant surgeries but still clings to the dream of meeting her favourite princess — Aurora — in Disneyland someday.

It’s a dream 40 ambitious Calgarians hope to help keep alive one gruelling shift at a time.

Ex-Heatley teammate thankful for cancer-fight support

Moe Halat’s goal was never to play in something as trivial as the world’s longest hockey game.

It was simply to live long enough to watch his sons play their first game, graduate high school or maybe get married.

After a year of agonizing pain and uncertainty, it appears his wish will come true.

Eight months ago, hope appeared to be fading as was his health.

His body ravaged by a stage 4 cancerous tumour removed from his chest that required aggressive chemotherapy, he lay in bed for months contemplating his mortality. Down more than 40 lb. from the 180 lb. he wore as a gifted forward with the Calgary Canucks and Mount Royal College Cougars, Halat’s thoughts often turned to hockey, thanks to the well-wishes, generosity and love that overwhelmed him from former teammates.

“When you have two kids and a wife that need you, the possibility of dying definitely crosses your mind,” said Halat, who went long stretches unable to see his four-year-old Alex and two-year-old Adam for fear of infection.

“Lying in bed with my wife (Nadia) by my side, I just kept thinking ‘I’m not going to miss my kids’ first game or Disneyland.’ But with a brother and a family like mine, everyone was very positive.”

That optimism helped pave the way for the type of miraculous recovery a large portion of the Calgary hockey community hoped for when it gathered at a local pub last February to raise money for the elevator mechanic’s family.

The initial diagnosis of his rare form of lymphoma one year ago pegged his chances of survival as low as 40%.

Last month, just days before his 33rd birthday, he was summoned to the all-too-familiar Tom Baker Centre where chest pains had him fearing the worst. However, he was told that day he had a clean bill of health.

“My wife almost broke down and so did I,” Halat said of the emotional news.

“The moment she told me … relief. It was a long year.”

There will be trips to Disneyland and there will be hockey games in their future. For now, Halat will focus on rehab with an eye on returning to work in the new year.

Sadly, given his decreased lung capacity, he’s unlikely to partake in brother Alex’s latest fundraiser, which has 40 Calgarians planning to play in the world’s longest hockey game May 6-16 in Chestermere.

“That’s my brother — he’s an incredible person,” said Moe of the event aiming to raise $1.2 million for the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation.

“I’m hoping to be back at work by then — I’d love to play or ref, but I’ll probably just volunteer. It’s a great cause. Great guys.”

He’s looking forward to seeing many of the faces he saw through teary eyes at the fundraiser for him, organized by his brother, which he attended against doctors wishes to thank all those who stood behind him.

One of the people he didn’t see that night due to his schedule as an NHL player was Dany Heatley, who combined with Halat and Ryan Manitowich to be the nation’s top Junior A line in 1999-2000.

“Heatley has been unbelievable through all this — I’d say he phones or texts me every week or so to see how I’m doing and see if my family needed anything,” Halat said.

“We were really close in junior and then we didn’t see each other a lot, but this year I saw him a lot — it definitely brought our friendship back closer together again. Slowly, guys drift apart and when you go through something like this, it shows you who is there for you.”

Already close enough to his brother to name his first child after him, Moe’s hero through all this has been his sibling.

“You definitely can’t ask for a better brother than him,” said Moe, who has been off work for more than a year.

“There was a stretch there I couldn’t do too much with my kids. After my chemo, there was 10 to 14 days that I was bedridden so the kids felt cooped up and he took them out all the time.

“I think they’re as close to him as they are with me, especially after the last year.”


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