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11-Day Power Play sets world record, beats $1M goal

Game over, record set, mission accomplished. The 11 Day Power Play wrapped up early Monday in HarborCenter, successfully achieving its lofty goals in a cause launched months ago to support cancer research.

The final whistle sounded shortly before 8 a.m., ending 11 days of continuous regulation hockey. The game set a new record length just after 7:03 a.m., surpassing the previous mark set by a similar charity effort in Alberta.

The final score was 1,725 goals for the blue team and 1,697 for the white team. But the more important number announced at the conclusion of the game was $1.2 million. That was the amount raised for Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

"One-point-two million, times thirteen," said Chris Evanco, one of the 40 players who took part in the 11 Day Power Play. "With matching grants, we raised more money than I could even imagine."

The goal of one million dollars was reached very early into the 11 days of hockey. Having achieved that, the players got to focus on setting the new endurance record. It did not come easy. Prior to the beginning of the game, players expressed their appreciation for the physical and mental challenge that awaited them. But as the 11 days progressed, some were even more tested than first expected.

"Everybody's competitive. We knew we had set a goal and we wanted to make sure we accomplished that goal. Although early on, I'd say by day three, it was questionable whether we were going to be able to make it," said player David Pyc. "Guys were pretty banged up. We had lost some guys going to the hospital, some guys had stitches, broken noses, but everybody persevered, filled in for their shifts and was able to make it through."

Trainers and other personnel were present to assist the players throughout the game. There were also personal motivations that got each player through. All have been touched by cancer in one way or another, having lost loved ones or friends to the disease, having loved ones survive it or perhaps personally beating the illness. And to the last man, none wanted to fail the cause.

"We knew eight months ago when we had the roster set that there wasn't one guy on this team that was going to let anybody down," said player Dave Travers. 

The stands in the feature rink of HarborCenter were nearly full of spectators. Numerous signs from supporters were taped to the plexiglass surrounding the ice. The crowd rose to its feet just after 7:03 a.m., when it was acknowledged that the men on the ice had broken the previous world record for longest hockey game played. They were back on their feet in the final seconds of the game.

WBFO's Michael Mroziak interviews Mike Lesakowski, who organized and played in the 11 Day Power Play, and his wife Amy Lesakowski, who is a cancer survivor.

What followed was a postgame ceremony that had a feel similar to a Stanley Cup final. The players took turns passing a specially-made cup. Some shook bottles and showered their mates with champagne. 

Mike Lesakowski, whose wife Amy is a cancer survivor, had a big smile on his face as he looked back on the end of an event he organized many months before.

"We're taking it in right now," he said, with Amy at his side. "I'm really going to have fun looking back at pictures. Amy and I, I'm sure, are going to go through thousands of pictures at some point, really take them in and enjoy it."

Travers was holding back tears as he looked back on a lengthy, ambitious project that was now over.

"A little relief, a lot of emotion," Travers replied. "I'm really just very proud of these guys and all the volunteers and support group around us. A wonderful, wonderful moment."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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