MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Pat Forte grew up in hockey country: Eveleth, Minnesota – the home of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"Every kid that grew up, they slid a pair of skates on," Forte said.
He turned into a high-end high school player who had his career short-circuited.
"I was being pretty heavily recruited as a high school kid," he said. "I had a rare knee disorder where I ended up having 16 knee operations because of it."
Forte became a high school coach and worked with some all-star teams. One of those teams featured a familiar name: Zach Parise.
"The first thing I remember is just how competitive he was," Forte said. "Man, I thought I was competitive … he didn't want to lose ping pong, whatever it was."
He was where he wanted to be, until one day in 2006, when the doctor gave him some incredibly bad news.
"I had a rare cancer called a thymic carcinoid, and it was in my chest," Forte said. "The doctor came in and just said it was Stage 4 and 'get your stuff in order because you got about six months to live.'"
They found ways to shrink the tumor and beat the odds. It was done with the help of the hockey community and the people he served. He has learned much.
"I don't think you can put it into words," he said. "I don't know. It's unbelievable. Unbelievable, that's all I can say."
And that hockey community paid tribute to him last year, when the Hockey Hall of Fame honored him with the Spirit of Life Award.
"Getting the award, especially from the hall of fame where I grew up in the shadows of it. And like I tell my friend, 'I'd like to be in it, but it was for goals and assists, not for, you know, fighting cancer and still giving back to the game,'" Forte said. "It was still pretty special."
He does not know what the future holds. He travels to Mayo Clinic once a month for immunotherapy. But he knows what he has learned, through cancer, about hockey, and about life.
"I told my sister last night on the phone, I said, 'You know, I want this immunotherapy to work and everything, but if I die, I just feel so blessed,'" he said.
Forte will be at the Minnesota Wild game Saturday night to perform "Let's Play Hockey."
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