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Supporters of 11 Day Power Play tournament come from WNY – and beyond

The 11 Day Power Play is a family affair.

Of the roughly 75 people watching in the stands Saturday, most were rooting for a family member, were accompanied by family or had relatives both on the ice and next to them in the stands.

In its final days, the hockey tournament – aiming to beat the Guinness World Record for longest hockey game – has people traveling from all over the country in support of the cause and their family members.

The tournament was created in support of research at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. As of Saturday, the event had raised $1.1 million – $100,000 over its goal.

After only being able to watch her brother play via a live stream of the tournament, Lisa Groewa and her two daughters spent 3 1/2 hours on the road to Buffalo from Cleveland to cheer on Dave Costantini, number 42.

The women wore matching blue 11 Day Power Play t-shirts. Groewa had a few more slung over her arm.

Their family, most of whom live in Buffalo, were taking turns in the stands over the course of the tournament. They wanted to make sure Costantini sees a familiar face when he plays.

“Everybody has really rallied around him,” Groewa said.

Once they leave, number 42 will have a symbol of their support to keep him going. His niece, Rachael, made him a sign with the words “We heart Costantini,” that she planned to tape on the arena glass.

Sarah Crane wore a black shirt with the words, “Win Corey Win.” Crane, currently 8 months pregnant, traveled with her three kids from North Carolina to root for husband Corey Crane, number 15, and brother Mike Spino, number 45.

Her kids, along with two of her nephews, had paper and colored pencils scattered on the bench. They were making more signs to put along the glass.

“It’s really become a family bonding event,” said James Jackson, a South Buffalo resident and Crane’s brother-in-law. “We’re a tight-knit family anyway, but now that we’re also doing this for such a great cause it's made us even closer. Its made us realize how special family really is.”

Crane had attended almost every day of the event. Jackson had come out for three, every day he’s not working on the road.

Rosty Caryk and Mary Evanco-Caryk, both volunteers, had been in the arena every day since the first puck drop. During their time off, they sat in a front row, Evanco-Caryk yelling encouraging “Woos,” while Caryk clapped in support.

With three loved ones on the ice, they hoped to be there the moment the record is broken. Both had signed up to work the last shift.

In more than nine days of volunteering, they agreed that the people they see most often in the stands at the event are family members.

“We know a guy who just came in with his wife from California. We’ve got people coming from all over the world to see this,” Evanco-Caryk said. “Everybody’s here for the finale.”

“It’s continuous,” Caryk said. “As soon as a player sees them their faces light up. That’s neat to witness.”

Maddison Paszek, of Hamburg, had been in the stands every moment she’s not at work – chanting, putting up signs, coordinating her visits for when her uncle is on the ice.

While she wants to celebrate him during the tournament, some celebration has to come after, Paszek said.

“How can you not?” Paszek said. “They’re breaking a world record and fighting cancer.”

But the party will have to wait a little.

“I don’t know if they’ll be able to move right after. And they’ll probably need at least a week, or two, of sleep,” Paszek said, with a chuckle.

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