The grandfather of Brayden McNabb recently got cancer. McNabb’s mother had it, too. She fought and won, so the hope is that history repeats.
Right about the time McNabb’s grandfather was diagnosed, the Sabres brought the idea of “Goin’ Bald for Bucks” into the dressing room. It’s a cancer-fighting fundraiser. McNabb quickly punched his hand into the air to volunteer.
“Whenever I have a chance to do something like this, I always jump on it,” the defenseman said. “It’s a bad thing out there in the world. If you can help donate a little or get a little money to help the cause, I’m more than willing to do that.”
This time, instead of dropping cash, McNabb is shedding his curly locks. Following practice Monday, he and teammates Cody Hodgson, Mike Weber, Mark Pysyk and Alex Sulzer will take a seat in a barber’s chair in First Niagara Center. Buffalo teammates will fire up electric razors and shave the players’ heads.
It’s an attention-grabbing way to fight cancer. Folks who are unaware of the program will see a bald head on the ice or in a postgame interview, ask why and learn about the program.
“We’re in the fortunate position that people look at us,” Sulzer said. “We’re kind of the center of attention, and we’re just taking advantage of that. I’m really excited about it.”
Bald for Bucks began in 2002 when Western New Yorker Cathleen George started fighting cancer for the third time. She was hairless because of chemotherapy, so her brother Tony told her he’d shave his head and not let his hair grow until hers did. A student of the Lake Shore High School teacher jokingly said he’d pay to do the shaving, and the fundraiser was born.
The program has raised more than $2.1 million for Roswell Park Cancer Institute. The five Sabres have generated donations of more than $4,700 so far at BaldForBucks.org, and Hodgson plans to match the final total with his own funds.
“Hopefully, we can get good donations and it will work out well,” said Hodgson, who has eschewed haircuts to create the frizziest mop. “I had to wait another month to let this thing go crazy.”
McNabb has cut his hair for charity once before, but it’s new to the others. No one is quite sure how they’ll look, but everyone – including wives and girlfriends – is on board.
“We’re married already so she’s not going to leave you because of a haircut,” Sulzer said with a laugh.
Weber can’t wait for the photos. They’ll go in the scrapbook alongside his “Tickets for Troops” campaign and the Ronald McDonald House work done by his wife, Janine. The couple had a son late last year, and they want him to know what’s important when he gets older.
“You’ve always got to give back,” Weber said. “Whatever you can do, you’ve got to do it. On things like this, you can’t be a ‘no’ guy. My hair’s not that important to me.
“Cancer is something that has touched every single person in one way or another, whether it’s a friend, family, sibling, kid. This is an extremely small thing that I was brought that I can be a part of and can do. It should be a fun afternoon.”
Kane makes do
The Blackhawks have a clear No. 1 center in Jonathan Toews. He meshes well with left wing Patrick Sharp and right wing Marian Hossa.
Chicago can’t find a dependable second-line center, however. That leaves Patrick Kane without a regular middle man. During a recent three-game run, Kane had three different centers.
It hasn’t mattered. The right winger from South Buffalo still entered the weekend third in the NHL in points, including seventh in goals (23) and eighth in assists (33).
“That shows the type of player that he is,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s got that ability to improvise, and it seems like he has the puck a lot. Whoever’s playing with him realizes you’re better off getting him the puck and going to certain areas because you’re going to end up with it as well.”
Kane’s center du jour is third-year pro Andrew Shaw. He has 34 goals and 28 assists in 132 games. That’s a long way from Toews, who has 419 points in 457 games.
“I just try to get the puck, create plays, make sure you’re working hard on both sides of the puck and kind of worry about myself more than who I’m playing with,” Kane said.
No turning back
USA Hockey feels it got burned by the Olympic selection saga, which was detailed here a few weeks ago. The biggest lament is good relationships were ruined because too much information was leaked.
On the plus side, the organization received a lot of mileage from the stories. Even people who don’t watch hockey enjoyed the in-depth looks at how much the country’s skill level has grown and how much work goes into picking the team.
I asked a USA Hockey executive if, after weighing the pros and cons, the organization would be willing to allow access to its next selection process.
“Yeah, we would,” he said.
On the fly
• The Penguins have been crushed by injuries. They need a right winger. Specifically, they need a right winger who can play on the third line with center Brandon Sutter. Drew Stafford, anyone?
• The Canucks are ready to make a move, too. Vancouver entered Saturday night’s game against Calgary with just one win in its previous eight games (1-4-3). The Canucks have fallen out of a Pacific Division playoff spot and into the wild-card hunt.
• The Sabres are gone but not forgotten in Toronto. Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle says the series with Buffalo, especially the preseason brawl, is the root of many problems. “It affected our hockey club dramatically,” Carlyle said. “Injuries, suspensions, that was the start of the snowball that rolled around here for a long time and in some degree is still rolling.”