Bigger than hockey: Northern Bears raise more then $23,000 with ‘Team Bruce’ jerseys during home opener

Nathan Reiter/Daily Herald. Bruce Vance (centre) drops the puck for the ceremonial faceoff between Prince Albert Northern Bear captain Julia Cey and Weyburn Gold Wing captain Addison Longmore prior to the game at the Art Hauser Centre on Saturday night.

The Prince Albert Northern Bears kicked off their 2023-24 season on Saturday night, but there was a movement bigger than hockey in the Art Hauser Centre.

The Bears were wearing special “Team Bruce” jerseys in honor of former Bears manager Bruce Vance that were auctioned off to raise funds for the Victoria Hospital Foundation and the Cancer Foundation of Saskatchewan. Combined with other fundraising avenues such as proceeds from the game’s 50/50 draw, online donations and some donations being matched by the Broda Group and Signature Developments a grand total of $23,279.38 was raised.

Vance and his family were in attendance with Bruce performing the ceremonial face-off prior to the start of the game between the Bears and Weyburn.

Vance says the evening was extremely touching for himself and his family.

(I’m) certainly very proud of the team Bruce effort.  It’s amazing the support that the community has showed and the parents of the Bears who stepped up and bought their daughters jerseys and the overall camaraderie of the game Saturday night. It was a very special moment for me and my family and certainly something that we’ll never forget.”

This is not the first time that the Northern Bears organization has recognized Vance. During his tenure as a manager with the team, Vance was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2013. Members of the Bears organization made Team Bruce t-shirts to raise awareness and show support for Bruce during his battle with the disease.

During the game on Saturday, Vance says he ran into two Northern Bear alumni (Caitlyn Welder and Aleece Anderson) who were both wearing their original Team Bruce t-shirts.

“It’s very special. A couple of girls were at the game on Saturday with those t shirts on. So, the respect I have for the organization is immense. They do a great job in the community and the girls are all top-notch athletes and really good kids on top of that. We’ve got fond memories of our time with the Northern Bears when my wife, Liane and I were co-managers. We just enhanced those memories on Saturday.”

It’s been a lengthy battle for Vance with the disease over the past decade. At one point in time, Vance was declared to be free of the disease. Vance says he has undergone 53 rounds of chemotherapy and 20 radiation treatments.

“It’s been two parts. Back in late 2013 is when I was diagnosed and had emergency surgery, I had radiation and chemotherapy. In the summer of 2014, I was declared no evidence of disease. I was good right up until 2020 when the cancer came back, and it came back as stage four and terminal.”

“I underwent again a number of chemotherapy and radiation treatments and in June of this year, I made the decision that was very difficult on my body. I chose to discontinue the chemo at that time. We’re just trying some other methods of ways to slow down the cancer right now, and I just take it day-by-day.”

The Team Bruce jerseys worn by the Northern Bears were donated by the Saskatchewan Government Employees Union (SGEU).