What started as a way to show appreciation for a loved one’s fight against cancer has become one of the most beloved fundraisers in Buffalo.

On Thursday, June 20, the puck will drop to begin the seventh annual 11 Day Power Play, with games beginning at 6 p.m. and running continuously in three-hour intervals until Sunday, June 30, around 9 p.m. The games are free and open to the public -- and with this week’s heat wave, it’s a great way to get some relief and help in the fight against cancer.

“The 11 Day Power Play, Inc., was founded by Mike and Amy Lesakowski in 2016. Eight years earlier, Amy was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. But thanks to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, she had a successful outcome. In 2013, Mike’s mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and she succumbed to her disease. These events inspired Mike and Amy to want to give back in a big way to the organization that saved Amy’s life,” the organization explains.

The initial event featured 40 men, playing around the clock in an effort to not only raise more than $1 million for Roswell Park, but to break a world record for the world's longest-running hockey game. They met both goals during that event in June 2017. The following year, they expanded the event, creating what has become known as the Community Shift, in which teams from across Western New York are allowed to form and compete against each other in three-hour games. More than 2,300 people participated.

This year’s event is scheduled for Thursday, June 20 through Sunday, June 30 and it will benefit not only Roswell Park but also Make A Wish Western New York, Camp Good Days and Special Times and, separately, the Roswell Park and Oishei Children’s Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Program.

More than $10 million has been raised since 2017 for these organizations and this year proves to continue that tradition. An anticipated 2,500 hockey players of all ages and skills have signed up to play this year’s event.

“Opening night on June 20 is a celebration. It’s from 6-9 p.m. and we have celebrity guests, Sabretooth will be there. The first game is between our 60 top fundraisers. We really want to pack the rink for them,” Amy Lesakowski said.

In addition to the games, there’s a merchandise table on the second floor of HarborCenter, overlooking the action, where t-shirts, bracelets, blankets, keychains, magnets and other 11 Day Power Play branded gear is sold, adding to the event’s overall fundraising efforts.

New this year is the Petey Fund, a $11,000 grant that will be provided to a smaller non-profit organization also focused on fighting cancer. It will be a one-time grant awarded each year going forward and the winner will be announced during the opening ceremony.

The full schedule of games can be found here; donations can be made to the event in general or a specific player here. We might not be able to watch any current Buffalo Sabres playing hockey in June, but we can take a break from the heat and watch some local heroes give their all on the ice.

Buffalo Sabres Goalie Masks

Gallery Credit: Dave Fields

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