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Hasek's thoughts with ailing friend

OTTAWA -- As Dominik Hasek spends hours rehabbing his injured groin that is nowhere near game shape, occasionally his thoughts turn to a close friend who is fighting a disease that has no cure.

Fred Korey, the executive director of Buffalo's "Hasek's Heroes," is suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease. Formally known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the rapidly progressing neurological disease claims everyone afflicted, including the Hall of Fame baseball player who became the name and face of the malady.

"I found out about four months ago, and unfortunately his health is not very good," Hasek said Saturday, adding that he hasn't been able to speak with Korey because his friend has lost the ability to talk. "It's a very sad thing. Fred Korey was a great person for our hockey program. He was a great leader. The kids love him. The people in the community love him, and it's a big loss because he cannot handle the hockey program anymore."

Korey helped the goalie create and run the Dominik Hasek Youth Hockey League, the city association better known as Hasek's Heroes. Hasek's Ottawa Senators play in Buffalo on Friday, and the former Sabre will be in HSBC Arena's Harbour Club at 5:30 p.m. Thursday to host a benefit for Korey.

"It's going to be a big charity event for him and to say many 'thank yous' because, like I said, he was a great person and he was very important to the hockey programs in Buffalo," Hasek said.

Hasek founded Hasek's Heroes with a $1 million donation and still visits with the kids once or twice a year. He said the program would continue with a new director.

"It's a difficult situation, not only for me but for all the people who are involved with it. There are a lot of volunteers," said Hasek, who also praised Sabres managing partner Larry Quinn for the team's help with the program. "He has been very helpful, even though I am not part of the team anymore."

Hasek watched his team host his old team Saturday night in Scotiabank Place. He hasn't played since injuring his groin in the opening game of the Olympics last month. He was on the ice for about 30 minutes Saturday morning in a warm-up suit, skating circles and pulling his strength and conditioning coach with a rope. He then did off-ice workouts for more than hour.

There's no timetable for his return.

"I feel progress every week," said Hasek, who added he may try skating with equipment in the coming days. "I feel much better, but not close to being back in the game."

Tickets for the Korey benefit, which will include live and silent auctions, are $25. Call 847-0783 or e-mail: fheinle@communityp.com.

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Another benefit is taking place with every team across the league this weekend. After TPS equipment company director Brad Janson had a chat with Wayne Gretzky, they spearheaded "Tribute to Hockey Moms," which benefits the fight against breast cancer.

TPS created pink sticks for its players, and guys who use other brands joined in by painting their sticks pink and adding the breast cancer ribbon logo. The players, including at least 13 Sabres and a dozen Senators, used the sticks at the morning skate and during warm-ups, and some used them during the game. The sticks will be auctioned at local and national fund-raisers.

"The response to this project by the NHL players has been overwhelming," Janson said. "They are all very receptive and excited to do this for their moms and for breast cancer research, and TPS Hockey is proud to support this tribute."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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