On Day 11, hockey players break record for longest game
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Fatigue gave way to emotion for Les Kuntar on Monday when he attempted to put into perspective spending the past 11 days playing one continuous hockey game.
Standing at center ice and sipping a beer, the 47-year-old former professional goalie’s eyes welled with tears as he recalled a poignant moment that occurred early one morning during the bid to break the record for longest game and raise money for cancer research.
“A lady came and she had a bandanna on her head, so she was obviously undergoing chemotherapy,” said Kuntar, whose career included playing six games for the Montreal Canadiens during the 1993-94 season.
“At the end, she came down with a white sign that said, ‘Thank you,’ and stuck it on the glass. And we all just stopped and tapped our sticks,” he said. “It’s just amazing how many people are touched by this whole thing.”
Kuntar and 39 other Buffalo recreational league players — many of them in their 40s — overcame injuries, illness and countless blisters to unofficially set the record. It happened shortly after 7 a.m. when the official time clock mounted in the stands overlooking center ice hit 10 days, 10 hours, 3 minutes and 21 seconds. The time surpassed the previous mark recognized by the Guinness World Records of 250 hours, 3 minutes and 20 seconds, established during an outdoor game outside Edmonton, Alberta, in February 2015.
Fans stood, cheered and hollered, and play was stopped briefly as players hugged on the benches and on the ice. They played for about 32 more minutes before the final buzzer sounded for a game that began at 9 p.m. on June 22 and ended with Team Blue beating Team White 1,725-1,697.
Organizers must submit the full-length game video and official 54-page scoresheet to Guinness for verification.
A far more important tally came afterward when player and organizer Mike Lesakowski announced they had raised more than $1.2 million for Buffalo’s Roswell Park Cancer Institute, surpassing their goal by $200,000.
An environmental engineer, Lesakowski began organizing what became the “11 Day Power Play” a year ago. He was motivated to raise money after his wife, Amy, was successfully treated for breast cancer at Roswell in 2009, and in honor of his mother, who died of cancer last year.
“It was hard, getting up in the middle of the night, 2 a.m., sticking your feet in an ice bucket and getting wrapped up,” Lesakowski said. “But here we are. And it feels great right now.”
The two teams were split into mostly seven-player groupings (five skaters, a goalie and one substitute), which rotated playing four-hour shifts. Play stopped each hour for 10 minutes while the ice was cleaned.
Many were forced to take additional shifts to fill in for those who became sidelined by injuries and illness because rules prevented teams from adding replacements once the game began.
All 40 finished, though goalie Ryan Martin missed several days after coming down with strep throat and had to be quarantined so he didn’t infect other players. Nicholas Fattey continued playing despite a broken nose after being struck by a puck.
Whatever aches and pains the players felt were washed away as they celebrated by sipping champagne out of a makeshift cup on the ice.
“I don’t know what to say right now. I’m very tired. We all are,” said Allan Davis, who at 65 was the game’s oldest player. “This event right here is humbling. The amount of money we raised is unbelievable. But how I am with all of it? I think it’s going to take a few days to sink in.”
The ice time was donated by the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres-owned two-rink HarborCenter hockey and entertainment complex. Numerous restaurants chipped in by donating meals. A group of athletic trainers and therapists also was on hand 24 hours a day to treat injuries, tape up blisters and provide massages.
The players didn’t leave the facility, cramming into four rooms that were turned into sleeping quarters.
Kenny Corp, who led all scorers with 267 goals based on statistics compiled through midnight, was eager to play some more.
“Absolutely,” Corp said, sporting a gash over the bridge of his nose where he was cut by an errant stick.
“For this cause, it’s a small price to pay as opposed to someone going through chemotherapy or any type of cancer,” Corp said. “So yes, I would do it again tomorrow.”