Yellowknife man with brain cancer surprised by NHL alumni

Yellowknife man with brain cancer surprised by NHL alumni

When Matthew Tremblett went to skate with the Stanley Cup during Thursday's Skate with the Cup event in Yellowknife, he had no clue he would later be talking hockey with two NHL greats — former Toronto Maple Leafs player Lanny McDonald and former Calgary Flames player Colin Patterson.

The Yellowknife Minor Hockey Association and Hockey Day in Canada organizers arranged for the surprise dressing-room meet and greet for Tremblett, a Yellowknife man who was diagnosed with brain cancer about eight years ago.

"Oh wow," said Tremblett — an avid Maple Leafs fan — as he slipped on Stanley Cup rings from both players.

Mackenzie Scott/CBC

Tremblett has anaplastic astrocytoma, a rare brain tumour. Although he was in remission for a little while, the cancer returned two years ago. He is now in stage three brain cancer.

"It's back with a vengeance," Tremblett said.  "Now I found out my chemo isn't working so they put me on a different one."

The Yellowknife hockey community has rallied around Tremblett. When the NHL players learned some community members have been placing grey ribbon stickers on helmets in support of Tremblett — the ribbon is a symbol meant to increase awareness of brain cancer — they asked for ribbons for the entire alumni team.

WATCH: Tremblett gets surprised by Lanny McDonald and Colin Patterson

They'll wear those stickers during Friday evening's Hockey Day in Canada NHL Alumni and Celebrity Classic.

"Wow, that's amazing," Tremblett said as McDonald and Peterson collected stickers for their teammates.

"I couldn't believe it … It's going to be amazing to see that and it's going to be broadcasted on TV," Tremblett said. "I hope I can get more awareness [about brain cancer] out."

Mackenzie Scott/CBC

Yellowknife novice hockey shows support

It's not only NHL alumni who will be wearing the stickers. When local novice teams are on ice during clinics with the hockey teams this week, they'll be seen rocking the ribbons. 

Dan Hunter, coach of Yellowknife Minor Hockey's Weatherby Warriors, the team Tremblett's son Nathan plays for, helped arrange for stickers to go to other novice teams.

"We thought, 'Why is it just our team? Let's get all of novice [hockey] involved here,' and so we've handed it out to all the teams, and all the teams are very receptive," Hunter said. "Yellowknife's such a small place. Nathan goes to school with all these kids on different teams and everyone wanted to support Nathan and his dad."

Tremblett said it was a nice surprise to see all the support and "it's great to see so much awareness in this small town."

For Tremblett, he's been taking in the whole week as he continues to make memories he'll never forget.

"Being able to see the Stanley Cup with my child — it's a dream. It's something I never thought would be possible."

Mackenzie Scott/CBC