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Craig Anderson left the Ottawa Senators last week to be with his wife Nicholle and their family after she was diagnosed with cancer. It was an early diagnosis. Much was still unknown, save for one thing: They needed him.
But Nicholle knew that Anderson has another family, on that suddenly needed him more than they had anticipated: Andrew Hammond, the Senators’ backup goalie, was placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury suffered against Calgary on Friday. So she encouraged Craig to call GM Pierre Dorion, and let him know that he would rejoin the team in Edmonton for Sunday’s game.
Anderson made the start against the Oilers. He faced 37 shots. He turned aside 37 shots. With a heavy heart, Anderson led the Senators to a 2-0 victory over one of the NHL’s hottest offenses.
“Nicholle was the one who wanted Craig to come back. She was the one who said, ‘Craig, your teammates need you right now.’ We made this decision after consulting with Craig and Nicholle, their doctors, and we all felt because of this time frame it was all right for him to rejoin the team,” said Dorion.
It was a night in which Anderson not only had the support of his teammates – Erik Karlsson said “We did everything we could to help him but he played a hell of a game himself” – but of the NHL family itself.
There were purple ties being worn around the rink as a reminder of the “Hockey Fights Cancer” drive this month. There was one Senators fan who created a sign in support of Nicholle Anderson:
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) October 31, 2016
And there were the Oilers fans, who stuck around to cheer an opposing player as he received the game’s first star, knowing the context of that performance.
Even Cam Talbot, who was out-dueled by Anderson, stuck around to cheer him on.
— #HockeyFightsCancer (@NHL) October 31, 2016
It was an emotional night. As Senators defenseman Marc Methot said: “It really hit us approaching him on the ice because he broke down out there.”
We say this every time we see an NHL player put aside personal grief with an exemplary performance, but it’s amazing how these athletes can compartmentalize their problems when they hit the ice. Anderson is just the latest example of it.
As owner Eugene Melnyk said after the game: “Tonight was about more than hockey. It was about finding strength from teammates and your Sens family.”
Thoughts and prayers for the Anderson family during this difficult time.
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