Hockey world rallies around Gordie

Former NHL player Ryan White’s son diagnosed with brain cancer

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It takes a lot of courage to drop the gloves and fight, something Ryan White learned over his 13-year pro hockey career.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/02/2022 (350 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It takes a lot of courage to drop the gloves and fight, something Ryan White learned over his 13-year pro hockey career.

But now White, along with his wife, Sarah, faces a battle that brings a whole new meaning to the word courage. And facing it together head on, they want to share what their family is going through and extend a heartfelt thank you to those who’ve offered help during what’s been the most difficult time of their lives.

Last week, their three-year-old son Gordie was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), an aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer. The tumor is most commonly found in children between the ages of 7-10, with the average life expectancy less than one year.

SUPPLIED Ryan White, who became an assistant coach with the MJHL’s Winkler Flyers this season, holding his son Gordie.

“We had no idea what this was and I’m sure a lot of people don’t. It’s not talked about very often. That’s probably the biggest thing we’re trying to take out of this. Obviously, there’s no good news in all of this and everything is dark and dire, but I’m one of those people who try to think that things happen for a reason. The only reason I can think that it happened to us is that we have an opportunity to bring some awareness to this,” White told the Free Press in a phone interview on Tuesday. The Brandon native played 313 NHL games between the Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, Arizona Coyotes and Minnesota Wild. After two seasons with the Manitoba Moose, White closed out his playing career last season with the ECHL’s Wichita Thunder and is now an assistant coach with the MJHL’s Winkler Flyers.

“I know for myself, I need to be brave for my son and I know how brave my son is going to be during this… We’re not going to sit back and feel sorry for ourselves and hide. We want to be out and open with everything and bring as much awareness as we can to this to try and get some funding, some help and some answers for some other people so they don’t have to go through what we’re going through right now.”

Friends, family, teammates, and the communities of Brandon and Winkler have wasted no time in being there for the White family. One of Sarah’s close friends, Philippa Wintoneak, started a GoFundMe on Sunday with a target goal of $60,000 to help the family with potential financial stress and opportunities to try to prolong Gordie’s life. As of Tuesday evening, the fundraiser had nearly tripled its target. Donations poured in from people White, now 33, played with, against, and even guys he’s dropped the gloves with. The Montreal Canadiens organization, Carey Price, Ryan O’Reilly, Mark Stone, Benoit Pouliot, Jared Spurgeon, Andrew Ladd, and former Moose head coach Pascal Vincent are a few of the recognizable hockey names on a donor list that has already reached 1,000.

“One thing that’s really been holding us together as a family right now is just seeing the support. From teammates, to guys I went to war with, it just means a lot,” said White.

“Some guys I played with in the ECHL last year aren’t making a lot of money and they’re sending it up here for my son. It means the world to me. Some old coaches, trainers, guys that work hard for their money, guys that bust their ass all day, cleaning buses and unloading equipment for me, and it just really means the world to us… For a kid that never got to lace them up, to have the whole hockey world support him like that, it means everything to us right now.”

White and Sarah also have a two-month-old baby girl, Molly. The family of four is currently living with Sarah’s parents in Brandon. They had a get together at a bowling alley on the weekend for Gordie with close friends and some visiting family members that flew into town once they heard about the diagnosis.

“He really doesn’t know what’s going on yet… He knows something is going on, but he’s being a little trooper right now,” said White.

“We’ve had him around a lot of family the last couple days. We’re trying to make the most of the time that we have and trying to make the best memories that we can. We’re just trying to keep having as much fun as we can with him and put a smile on his face… He’s doing great right now. He was playing hockey this morning with his cousins before they had to head home.”

It’s a situation that no one should have to go through, but when you hear how highly people speak of White and his family, it makes it that much more heartbreaking.

“When I look at the list of the teammates that I’ve had over my hockey career, he would rank up there as one of the most honest, accountable, trustworthy, and hardworking teammates that I’ve had the pleasure of playing with,” said Moose defenceman Nelson Nogier, who played with White from 2018-2020.

“… You look at the memories that we have of playing with Whitey and a lot of those memories involved Gordie. Whitey always brought Gordie to the rink. He was always in the dressing room after games and after practices if Sarah could get him to the rink. Any time I think of Ryan White, I think of Gordie and the light that Gordie brings to the entire White family. It’s super heartbreaking.”

Vincent shared a similar sentiment.

SUPPLIED Three-year-old Gordie has been diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), an aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer.

“The energy he brought to the rink was so contagious. He was good with the younger guys, he was good with the older guys. He had a leadership role but also related to the young guys… For a coaching staff and for myself, having a guy like him adds tremendous value,” said Vincent, now an assistant coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“Then I got to know him personally and he’s the same person… He’s a real good man and played hockey giving his best all the time… What Ryan is going through right now, as a parent, that’s the worst, worst nightmare you can go through. I can’t imagine the pain, frustration and levels of emotions they’re going through. It’s just so sad and terrible and I think about him quite a bit.”

Just like his dad, Gordie loves hockey. He loves skating on the family’s backyard rink, cheering on dad’s Flyers, mingling with the boys in the locker room, and putting smiles on people’s faces along the way. To help Gordie have more time doing the things that he loves, he’ll be starting a six-week radiation treatment.

“Everyone’s scared. You look at Gordie right now and what comes with fear is you have two choices. It’s usually you can run and hide or have some courage and be brave. That’s what gives me hope with him. He’s a strong little guy. He’s brave, he’s got courage. He’s a tough little bugger and he gets that from his mom, not his dad,” said White.

“They’re the toughest ones in the family and I’m just trying to stay strong for them.”

To donate to the White family’s GoFundMe, visit https://gofund.me/b00604d1.

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
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Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...

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Updated on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 7:17 AM CST: Fixes typo

Updated on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 7:39 AM CST: Adds tile photo

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