ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The hockey world is embracing Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson after his wife was diagnosed with cancer last week, and it was an emotional scene Sunday night in Edmonton as Anderson pitched a shutout against the Oilers and was warmly saluted by fans in Rogers Place as well as Oilers goalie Cam Talbot when he was introduced as the first star.
Sabres goalie Robin Lehner, Anderson's former backup in Ottawa, said he saw the footage of Anderson and was touched by the scene.
"At the end of the day, stuff like this is so much bigger than the results of one hockey game," Lehner said after practice Monday in Xcel Energy Center. "There's so many different teams in the league but it's one big organization. Everyone in the NHL is part of a special group and that was great. We're all there supporting each other and a lot of times you're supporting causes. Every team in the league works for 'Hockey Fights Cancer'
"We meet people with cancer and we are all affected by it somehow, whether it's family members or friends. You always have to work together to find a cure and we can all pitch in in our different ways."
In his first game back after finding out his wife has been diagnosed with cancer, Craig Anderson gets a shutout and named 1st Star. Amazing. pic.twitter.com/wTJJk9ygNU
— Hockey Tweets (@HKY_Tweets) October 31, 2016
Speaking to The Buffalo News while wearing his purple Sabres Hockey Fights Cancer cap, Lehner said he received the news last week from his wife, Donya, after she spoke to Nicholle Anderson. The Andersons and the Senators have yet to release the type and stage of Nicholle Anderson's cancer.
"It's sad but you have to stay optimistic and wish them all the best," Lehner said. "She's one of those amazing, very optimistic, always happy people. She's a great person and we're all going to root for her and wish for the best."
Craig Anderson was the NHL's first star of the week after stopping 59 shots and posting a pair of shutouts. He blanked Vancouver on Tuesday, but took a leave of absence from the Senators to return home to Florida when his wife was diagnosed. He returned at her urging when Andrew Hammond was sidelined with a groin injury Friday night and made 37 saves in a 2-0 win over the Oilers Sunday.
"It speaks to the person she is. Great mom, very happy person," Lehner said. "This is what we do playing hockey. But family is the most important thing but this is our life, what we do, what our kids see us doing. It speaks a lot to her and to how involved the family gets in hockey.
"They're very supportive of us doing our job and something we love. Wives have a strong connection together and through the team. They want our teams to succeed. It's not just us and our faces on the ice. It's a whole bundle of things, all the support you get from an organization and your family. Our thoughts are with them."