The hockey marathon in Chestermere is wrapped, a Guinness World Record has been set and over $800K raised with more donations expected in support of children with cancer at the Alberta Children's Hospital (ACH).
Many feet, legs, and arms are swollen, and bodies are battered and bruised said event organizer Alex Halat was in shock to see so many people at the arena in support of the players over the course of 12 days.
"It was unreal, considering everything that's happened in the last couple of years and what's happening around the world right now, everyone put their differences aside and came together as one for one cause and just to help save the life of a child."
He chuckled but really couldn't believe how many people were in the stands between midnight and 5 in the morning,
"During the two Saturday nights, it was probably the best nightclub in town, with whoever the volunteer was playing music it felt like we were at Cowboys just pumping out great music."
Halat explained that it wasn't just the people in the stands that he and the players were so thankful for but also the hundreds of volunteers that were on hand to make sure everything ran as smoothly as it could.
Halat spoke about the physical and mental struggles the teams played through from swollen feet, swollen legs, sore backs, and even broken bones. But how all of those feelings of pain went away when the teams had special visitors stop by who are currently in treatment at ACH.
"Daily we had children coming from the hospital battling cancer like leukemia, it pulled a lot of heartstrings on the players but it got everyone through."
Halat went on to say that after hearing the stories from the children, somehow the pain in your back, hips, legs, and arms became irrelevant and you just found a way to get through the next shift.
Clayton Hall who originally grew up in Strathmore and now lives in Calgary was a volunteer ref the last time around and took part in the marathon event as a player for the first time and felt what he had only heard the players in the past talk about.
"It was physically and mentally draining, I was in the medical room making sure my body would hold up, but the mental side was even more challenging."
Having visitors coming by from different areas in Hall's life and seeing the patients from ACH coming in smiling and cheering them on was something that will remain with Hall for a long time to come.
"We had visitors every day, we took pictures with cancer survivors and patients currently in treatment, just to know what these kids are going through and who we're doing this for emotionally it was an absolute rollercoaster."
Hall did say that although there were some struggles he was also out there to have fun and be a part of something amazing.
"I was dancing on the ice quite a bit, I rode the Zamboni pretending to water ski, we had to keep it light to keep our minds off the heavy pieces there were some dark days for all of us."
Even among those tougher days, Hall said that it didn't matter what colour your jersey was everyone was there to support each other and pick each other up.
Which included the incredible support of the community support seeing so many people there sharing this experience was something he says made it easier to get up after an ice bath and a few hours of sleep lace up and get back out on the ice.
In the end, the score didn't matter although Halat did jokingly say he is pretty sure his team lost by more than 80 goals, and next time he will make sure not to put 5 goalies on the other team and only one on his, everyone had to take a turn in the net he explained, and some, well there is a reason why they don't normally do that he said jokingly.
Social media played a huge part this time around Halat noted that the last time they took to the ice it was definitely not as popular as it is now so it help to spread the word, and Hall who was one of the daily social media posters said people started coming in to get their picture taken and support where they could to be a part of the experience. Social media made an added impact that none of the players expected to see.
The closing ceremonies were held on April 11th and there wasn't a spot in the parking lot or an empty seat in the arena with over 2000 people in attendance the impact of what the players did Halat hopes will resonate and the awareness raised will have people continuing to help when and where they can.
The hope Halat says is that this will go on for years to come and they are working now to find younger players to keep this event going. He would love to play forever but as he said his body can only handle so much, the torch will eventually be passed on but that doesn't mean that any of the players will walk away, they will be on the sidelines volunteering and cheering along with everyone else.
Donations will still be accepted for a couple more weeks at hockeymarathon.com.
Halat is still in awe of the support they received and said in true Southern Alberta style it takes a village to come together for the greater good and that was exactly what happened for 12 days in Chestermere.