Buffalo intends to beat the Guinness World Record for longest hockey game, a feat never before attempted outside of Canada.
Their secret weapon: 40 middle-aged men.
The players will compete on the ice for 250 consecutive hours over the course of 11 days, an event called the 11 Day Power Play, which won't end until July 3.
Mike Lesakowski and his wife, Amy, organized the fundraiser after Mike's mother died of brain and lung cancer in 2016.
Their goal was to raise $1 million for Roswell Park Cancer Institute. By the time the first puck dropped on Thursday night, June 23, they had surpassed the fundraising goal by a few thousand dollars.
After meeting their goal so early in the game the couple thought about upping the goal to $2 million, but have decided to stick to the original. Donations are still being accepted online and through the sale of merchandise and of their locally brewed beer.
“We want people to keep donating. We want to blow it out of the water,” Amy said.
The 11 Day Power Play follows the same rules as a National Hockey League game, except players are on the ice 24 hours a day for 11 days. Teams are composed of five skaters, a goalie and one sub, the minimum for a game. They play four hours and then get an eight hour respite to eat, sleep and recover while other teams are on the ice. The teams remain in the facility all 11 days.
The idea for the hockey fundraiser struck Mike Lesakowski after his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. He saw how she raised money through the Susan G. Komen Foundation once she was cancer free and he wanted to take part in the fight.
“I was scared because I knew it was going to happen,” Amy said. “Once he sets to do something there’s no turning back.”
In May 2016 Mike's mom Evelyn died after a three-year battle with brain and lung cancer. Her death propelled him to immediately begin to put the event together.
Mike met with Nik Fattey, vice president and director of hockey at the HarborCenter, and said, “Can you give me 11 straight days of hockey? Can I have the ice for 11 straight days?”
He didn’t tell his wife he had secured the center until the day after his mom's services.
“You remember that world’s longest hockey game?” he said to Amy. “It’s happening.”
Buffalo loves hockey, and hockey with a cause is something locals could get behind. The Lesakowskis received about 100 applications from players and narrowed it down to 40. Every applicant had a story. The question the Lesakowskis placed the most weight on was why the applicants wanted to be in the event.
“What is it that would get them up at 3 a.m. on day eight?” Amy said.
Mark Lenard, one of the players, said he’s in it because it's his way of giving back to the community. He’s playing for the cause. But when he first heard about it, Lenard was skeptical.
“I thought it was crazy. I thought it was insane. The guys would hate each other after 11 days,” Lenard said.
Most players didn’t know each other when they first started their Saturday morning training sessions in December. Now they have a brotherly bond.
They’ll have 11 days to bond even tighter as they live in the the locker rooms of the HarborCenter, and they're hoping to celebrate once their continuous hockey games make it at least 3 minutes and 21 seconds past the 250-hour mark.