‘An unbelievable honour:’ Prince Albert hockey team kickstarting season with Team Bruce cancer fundraiser

Dignitaries pose with Bruce Vance (centre), wearing a jersey designed to honour his fight against cancer and fundraise for charities of his choice at the Northern Bears’ first game of the season on Sept. 30. – Mann-Northway/Submitted

In its first game of the season, a Prince Albert hockey team will be playing as Team Bruce.

The Mann-Northway Northern Bears are honouring former manager Bruce Vance with a third jersey as part of a cancer fundraiser.

“It’s going to be a very exciting night to see the team skating around as Team Bruce. I can hardly wait,” said Vance.

“It’s an unbelievable honour.”

The jerseys incorporate a blue ribbon, representing colon cancer, with ‘Team Bruce’ written on the front and back. The U18AAA girls team will wear the jerseys for its opening game at the Art Hauser Centre on Sept. 30.

The jerseys, along with others that adorn ‘Vance #1,’ will be auctioned off with the proceeds going towards the Cancer Foundation of Saskatchewan and the Victoria Hospital Foundation. There will also be a raffle draw.

Vance will always remember the date of his initial diagnosis – he had emergency surgery the Wednesday after the Saskatchewan Roughriders triumphed over the Hamilton Tiger Cats in the 101st Grey Cup.

“They removed a tumour the size of a golf ball from my colon, and also 27 cm of my colon at that time. I was diagnosed as Stage 3,” he explained.

“I underwent chemotherapy and radiation and by July of 2014, I was determined to (have) no evidence of cancer.”

The cancer returned in 2020. This time, it had spread to his lungs and liver, and was considered Stage 4 and terminal. An oncologist gave him an estimated survival time of 24 to 28 months, which he’s already outlived by over a year.

In June – after 53 rounds of chemotherapy and about 20 of radiation – he chose to stop chemo.

“My body has reacted not very well to the chemotherapy. It’s cumulative, and from my last chemotherapy I was very, very sick for the last 10 days,” said Vance.

“We’re taking it day to day.”

He said he chose the charities because he received half of his treatments in Prince Albert and half in Saskatoon.

The Cancer Foundation of Saskatchewan supports clinics in Saskatoon and Regina, while the Victoria Hospital is set to have an expanded cancer centre as part of future upgrades.

“To see some tangible results, things that I could touch and feel and see was very, very important to me for the charities, so I’m very pleased that the people who have treated me and extended my life are going to benefit from this jersey auction.”

The Cancer Foundation fundraises to provide the Saskatoon and Regina clinics with necessities such as equipment and chairs.

“It is heartwarming to see the outpouring of generosity from people in our communities, stepping up to show their support for family, friends, and neighbours. Cancer is a difficult journey, and no one travels it alone,” said Nora Yeates, CEO of the foundation.

Vance’s giving spirit was also echoed by the CEO of the Victoria Hospital Foundation, Cody Barnett.

“It’s truly fitting that even as we gather to honour Bruce, he continues to push for meaningful change through these fundraising efforts. His character is precisely why this acknowledgment is so well-deserved,” said Barnett.

“The impact of the funds raised through these efforts will ensure that we can all get the care we need, close to home.”

Vance said the jerseys are a “full circle moment” to a similar T-shirt fundraiser back when he was first diagnosed, spearheaded by two of the players.

“For teenage girls to do something like that, it’s very heartwarming and that was a great moment. Certainly, when I was told about this, it brought back a lot of memories,” he said.

The Northern Bears hockey team put on a similar fundraiser with T-shirts for manager Bruce Vance after he was first diagnosed with cancer in late 2013. – Mann-Northway/Submitted

Broda Group and Signature Developments will be matching pledges up to $10,000.

At the end of August, the hockey team announced its new name, thanks to a partnership with its title sponsor Mann Northway GM.

“We are so honoured and excited to be a part of such an amazing gesture. Bruce Vance is an example of true grit and integrity,” said dealer principal Mark Ripley.

“Thank you Bruce, for being such an amazing human.”