Coaching the Canadiens
Vincze Paparo doesn’t have a lot of experience as a hockey coach. In fact, he didn’t have any before stepping behind the bench of the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens.
Put Prostate Cancer on Ice, a charity hockey game held Feb. 26 at the Garson Arena, brought together a team of Habs alumni to take on the CTV Cheapskates, a team made up of members of the Greater Sudbury community.
A soccer player at heart, Paparo has never even played in an actual hockey game. Not that he really needed to know what he was doing. The Valley East man stood alongside head coach Guy Lafleur, who played 17 seasons in the NHL with the Canadiens, New York Rangers and Quebec Nordiques, won the Stanley Cup on five occasions and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.
“I don’t think I have to say much,” Paparo said with a smile during the first intermission.
Actually, Paparo didn’t ever stop smiling during the event. He was afforded the opportunity to “coach” the Habs after receiving a Dream of a Lifetime ticket from his wife for his birthday. The event represented a lot for Paparo.
“I’m a Habs fan, my father has prostate cancer and I’m a survivor of cancer,” he said. He was also a volunteer with the event committee for the Sudbury branch of the Canadian Cancer Society.
Paparo was diagnosed with Leukemia in 1999. He received a bone marrow transplant shortly after his diagnosis and has been in remission ever since.
“It sounds odd but I think my cancer is probably one of the best things that has ever happened to me,” he said. “Only because your attitude changes. You’re thankful for the smaller things that you wouldn’t think of otherwise.”
But that doesn’t mean dealing with the disease has always been easy.
“When I need to escape the fact that I have cancer, I watch hockey,” Paparo said. “For me, this is an escape from everything that is real.”
The event, which was a fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society, aimed to bring a specific focus to prostate cancer. According to the Society, one in seven men has the chance of developing prostate cancer in his lifetime. An estimated 26,500 men were diagnosed with the disease in 2012 in Canada alone.
Tim Whalen, the northeast regional president of the Canadian Cancer Society, said the event was a great way to target the male demographic, and raise awareness of the disease.
“Most Canadians would consider hockey to be our national sport, so it hits home with many households and, in particular, men, especially at the NHL level,” Whalen said. “When you boil it down, prostate cancer is to men what breast cancer is to women, that’s how prevalent it is.”
Positions on the Cheapskates team were available for purchase as part of the fundraiser. Funds were also collected through ticket sales, a silent auction and program sales. In total, more than $32,000 was raised.