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On Hockey Fights Cancer Night, Flyers Pay Tribute to A.J. Grande, Joe Fisher

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A.J. Grande, Philadelphia Flyers
This is the jersey that Travis Sanheim wore in warmups Monday as a tribute to A.J. Grande, who died last month.

The Philadelphia Flyers paid tribute to to A.J. Grande, a devoted young fan who passed away last month, before Monday’s home game against Calgary at the Wells Fargo Center.

It was Hockey Fights Cancer Night, and Grande died of the disease Oct. 12. He was 19.

Before Monday’s game, Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim wore “Grande” on the back of a No. 11 lavender jersey for warmups. A.J.’s family members watched warmups from the Flyers’ bench, and they were given the jersey afterward.

“It was a privilege to wear it,” Sanheim said.

A..J.’s brother, Cody, read the Philadelphia Flyers’ starting lineup in the locker room prior to the team’s 5-2 loss to Calgary.

Positive messages

The Flyers had become personally involved with A.J. New coach John Tortorella and right winger Travis Konecny — who wears No. 11, but was not in warmups because he was injured — sent him positive video messages during his cancer battle. He had 40 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Tortorella’s words left the family speechless.

“I will keep that message forever,” said A.J.’s mom, Tricia, in a video the Flyers put on Twitter.

Tricia said her son was getting ready to graduate from Springfield (Delaware County) High in May of 2021 when a mass the size of an orange was found on his bladder.

Eight months ago, he rang the bell as he left the hospital and was declared cancer-free, his mom said.

“Unfortunately, it came back … and the doctors said it came back with a vengeance,” she said.

‘Left a legacy’

She said her son was an upbeat person, and people gravitated toward him.

“A.J. left a legacy and an impact on all of us,” she said.

Before Monday’s game, the Flyers showed a scoreboard tribute and had a moment of silence for another recent cancer victim, former fan club president Joe Fisher. (Personal note: I’ve worked with Joe at some behind-the-scene events, and he was deeply sincere, and the most accommodating person you could meet.)

After Monday’s morning skate, Tortorella and Kevin Hayes said they were deeply affected by a Hockey Fights Cancer ceremony Saturday night in Montreal. Cancer-stricken youngsters went on the ice with Canadiens players in a touching scene.

“It was emotional for me,” Tortorella said. “We’re gearing up for winning and losing and all the pressure that goes with it. I look at these kids in real-life situations and they really haven’t been given a fair chance. They’re fighting like hell, so you’re right: It does put things in perspective.”

Hayes noted that every family has been affected by cancer.

“It’s a disease that doesn’t seem to be going away,” said Hayes, whose parents are cancer survivors. “It’s a nice gesture by the league that every team does nights like tonight to show our support.”

Hayes said it “hit home in this organization with Oskar Lindblom,” a cancer survivor who is now with San Jose. “It makes you realize our problems aren’t too serious compared to what a lot of people go through every day.

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