The 11-Day Power Play Community Shift begins Thursday night at HarborCenter. It is the follow-up to last year's inaugural event, organized by Mike and Amy Lesakowski to raise money for cancer research by breaking the record for the world's longest hockey game.
It began as an idea by Mike Lesakowski, as his wife Amy was going through cancer. Then Mike's mother passed away from cancer in 2016.
"We recruited 40 players and started training and getting the event organized in June of 2017 and the 40 players completed a 251-hour hockey game in an attempt to get a Guiness World record," said Amy Lesakowski, "So July 3rd that game ended and we raised over $1.2 million in that attempt for Roswell Park Cancer Institute here in Buffalo."
That was the inaugural event in 2017. Because of the specific rules that had to be followed last year to break that official record, the number of participants was limited.
This year, in response to the increased number of people who expressed wanting to participate - and because the event will not be bound by Guiness rules - a new format will be used: two new teams will take the ice every four hours.
"We recruited 120 teams and we have just over 1,600 players playing in the event," she said, "The ages range from age 11 - Pee Wee age - all the way up to, I think our oldest player is 72. We have men, women, boys, girls playing in the event and we have college teams, high school teams. We have reunions - people flying in from acorss the country to be a part of the event - and we've got corporations and organizations that put together teams and it's just a real community event."
This year's fundraising goal is $1 million and Lesakowski said more than $900,000 has already been pledged. Beneficiaries this year include Roswell Park, Camp Good Days and Special Times and Make-A-Wish WNY.
"People tell us every day how much it means to them to be a part of it, whether it's a patient themself, a family member who's had a loved one that they've lost or is currently battling or has battled," she said, "everyone seems to understanding the importance of funding these important programs and research and the heart, the passion that's being put into the event by our volunteers and the players is really wonderful."
The 40 players who set the record last year will be the first on the ice. The Buffalo Beauts and Buffalo Sabres Alumni also will be participating.
Opening ceremonies begin at 7 p.m. and the first puck drop will be at 8 p.m. Play continues through July 15 at 6 p.m.