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Survivors Battle Odds On The Ice

LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4) – "I survived a Germinoma brain tumor."

"I survived a car crash, don't know how."

"I had cancer at 14."

"Hodgkin's lymphoma, Stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma."

"Colon cancer. I just had surgery five weeks ago."

They're all hockey players -- men and women who've been through challenges that threatened their lives.

"Breast cancer, skin cancer and cervical cancer … and liver tumors last year," said Christina Montoya.

Some have dealt with cancer, others brain injury, war injury. The list is long.

"It's just small things. They understand what we've had to go through, all the small things with treatment -- driving there, surgeries, anything you can name," said goalie Tristan Close, survivor of a brain tumor.

(credit: CBS)

All of the players came together as part of the Survivor Game held during the weekend's Dawg Nation benefit hockey tournament. The charity provides money for hockey players who have challenges like disease or injury.

Teams competed all weekend, donating $120,000 toward Dawg Nation's efforts.

"It's grown much, much faster than I ever thought it would ... it's pretty amazing," said Dawg Nation President Marty Richardson.

(credit: CBS)

But those were mostly healthy players. The Survivor Game is organized every year for the people who have pushed through their challenges. This is year five.

"The really neat thing is we've only lost one guy to cancer and that was two years ago. Kim McCloud, my friend. I'm wearing green in his honor," said prostate cancer survivor Richard Forman.

One player couldn't play, in spite of his love of the game. Cody Beekman was 21 when, thinking he'd had too much to drink, he called his roommate for a ride.

"And then on the way home Cody got hit by a drunk driver and that paralyzed him for life," said Richardson. "So it was a pretty, pretty rough time for Cody."

(credit: CBS)

In addition the driver who hit him had no job and no insurance. Cody has been hit hard trying to pay for the rehabilitation he needs. In the middle of the game they stopped and presented him with a check for $24,000.

The game is a way for survivors to bond with friends who've been through the challenges they deal with.

"This is awesome because we all get to see each other again year after year and hug each other and praise each other and have a great time," said Forman.

(credit: CBS)

"This is the greatest experience that any of us can have," said cancer survivor Dave Chamberlin.

The organization treats them like stars. Colorado Avalanche announcer and former NHL player Peter McNabb was moved as he coached.

"It's just fantastic to watch their attitude because if that was me I'd be so down. If I was afraid of what these guys live with, I'm not sure I could handle it," he said.

You'll find faster hockey out there, but you'll never find more spirit or more comradery.

"Oh it's awesome, awesome," said Forman and he headed out for another shift on the ice.


Alan Gionet is anchor of the CBS4 Morning News and reports on a wide variety of issues and "Good Question" stories. He started at CBS4 in 1994. Follow Alan on Twitter @AlanGTV.

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