PITTSTON — Planning the 8th Annual Dave Burke Memorial Ice Hockey Tournament took on a whole new meaning for Don Sabo, one of the tournament organizers, this year.
The charity hockey tournament, which was played at both the Toyota Sportsplex in Wilkes-Barre and the Revolution Ice Center in Pittston, is held each year in honor of goaltenders Dave Burke, who lost his battle with Lymphatic Cancer in 2008, and Gary Lukasiewicz, who passed away in 2012 after a two-year battle with cancer. The netminders died at the ages of 24 and 18, respectively.
Sabo, 56 of Freeland, who’s helped organize the tournament each year, was told that this year’s endeavour would benefit his grandson, 4-year-old Elijah Sabo, who was diagnosed with a stage-4 Neuroblastoma; a rare form of cancer that’s mostly found in infants and young children.
“It was very emotional,” said Sabo about when he first found out about this year’s efforts. “He’s my grandson and I care lots about him. I was thankful and teary-eyed when they told me the news.”
When asked about what the support of the local hockey community means to him and his family, Sabo said it’s truly awe-inspiring.
“It’s overwhelming,” he said. “These hockey guys are good guys. It’s just overwhelming to see the support because it helps take pressure off of my children as they are currently going through so much. It will help them live out there where my grandson is being treated and to help pay for the medical expenses.”
Elijah, who has a twin-brother, Cael, and older-sister, Karina, is currently at the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center receiving chemotherapy treatments for his disease.
A total of 24 teams took part in the tournament, including a team from New York that featured former Philadelphia Flyer and Pittsburgh Penguin Arron Asham. It was played over the weekend Friday, July 31 through Sunday, Aug. 2 with teams coming from as far away as Maryland and Virginia.
The Binghamton Rink Rats, Roast Beef Warriors and Lehigh Valley Bandits, who each won their respective divisions.
Reach Russell Hrynak at 570-991-6401 or on Twitter @TLRussHryvnak