Rampage Kickoff Face-Off Against Kids Cancer Program

By Kinsey Janke / SARampage.com

Hockey players have always been a bit rougher around the edges. Black eyes, missing teeth, accents from around the world, and the unique slang of a locker room have always defined the stereotype.

But sitting in a room on the fifth floor of Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, the stereotype couldn’t be further from the truth.

The full San Antonio Rampage roster, clad in their road blacks, sat in mismatched groups, their size making them look slightly out of place in a room that was clearly designed for children. Some of the 26 players in attendance talked amongst themselves, others waited quietly with smiles on their faces.

In its fifth year, the Face-Off Against Kids Cancer initiative pairs each member of the Rampage with a child being treated in the Centers for Oncology and Blood Disorders for a series of social events throughout the Rampage season.

The first event, held Wednesday, Oct. 23, was a board game and Halloween cookie decorating party, in which the players met their buddies and their families for the first time. 

“I just like getting to know the kids. It’s nice to come out and play games with them and put smiles on their faces,” said Rampage defenseman Colby Robak. “They’re appreciative of it, and it’s something that makes you feel good. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Robak is in his third year participating in the program and it’s easy to see how much he enjoys it.

Greeting his buddy and his two siblings, Robak offers up a hand to high-five – his grin splitting his face as he receives a warm welcome from all three of the children. As he shows them to a table in the back his buddy’s sister stares hard at his black eye.

The bruising is from a high stick Robak took during the October 18 game against Texas, and though it has faded considerably, it still sticks out against his cheek.

“Is that a real black eye?” she asks, looking skeptical.

Robak grins and laughs, shaking his head and gesturing to the decorations around him.

“Just part of my Halloween costume. Pretty good, huh?”

Similar exchanges crop up all over the room. In one corner, Zach Miskovic and Jack Combs can be heard playing Yahtzee with their buddy, unable to win even a game against him.

Up front, Mike Mottau and Bobby Butler are locked into a tense game of Ice Breaker with their buddy, while at the next table, Logan Shaw and Vince Trocheck are taking their game of Hungry-Hungry Hippos as serious as they would a Rampage game.

“It’s awesome,” said Butler. “It’s a great experience to come out here and hang out and get to know people and the little guys that are struggling. It’s a great cause, and it’s been a fun night.”

Butler explains that the mother of his buddy was beyond pleased at the interaction, telling them that the permanent grin on her son’s face was not like him, and that it was great seeing him smile like that.

Though the event is centered on the children and bringing some light to their world, it’s evident that the players are having just as much fun, both at the hospital and with the other events that occur throughout the season.

“We’ve gone to the Rodeo and to SeaWorld in the past,” said Rampage captain Greg Rallo. “Just a lot of really fun times where not only the kids have a good time, but I think our players have a really good time, too.”

Such is evident with the lengths the players go to support their buddies. The team hosts an event every month throughout the season, but several players go above-and-beyond. Surprise hospital visits have become the norm and last year two Rampage players even purchased four tickets for their buddy to see Justin Bieber at AT&T Center.

Crystal De Hoyas is another parent who already can see the positive difference that the event has had on her child. Just 14-years-old, her daughter, Savannah, is in remission after nine months of hard chemotherapy. Diagnosed with T-cell lymphoblastic leukemia, Savannah just completed her first month of low chemotherapy, a less intense procedure that will last for the next two years, ensuring that the return of the cancer will not occur.

“I think just the experience of getting to know the hockey players and knowing that there are people who care about her and what to know what she’s going through and how they could help her is great,” said De Hoyas.

The experience is often compared to the bond between a brother and sister, and the similarities, even in just two hours, are striking. At the end of the night, the Rampage players gathered around their buddies, smiling wide for a group picture.

“I tell everyone that these look like big, gruff, hockey players that get on the ice and push each other around, but when they’re with the kids, they are the nicest, sweetest, and kindest people,” said Brandy Ralston-Lint, the public relations program manager for the Children’s Hospital.

Ralston-Lint’s son Connor was a participant in the inaugural Face-Off event, paired up with former Rampage goalie, Josh Tordjman. To this day, Connor still speaks about Josh, and proudly displays one of Tordjman’s old sticks in his bedroom.

“It’s a chance for the kids to not think about cancer for one night,” said Ralston-Lint.

“For one night, they can just come and be a kid. They don’t have to worry about chemo. They don’t have to worry about shots, or needles, or pokes, or pricks, and blood counts and everything else. They’re coming here to have fun. They can worry about Candy Land.”

Search Archive »

Browse by Year »


Browse by Month »

July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
@@block(4000, 0, content)@@