The Toledo Walleye literally rolled out the red carpet for Kyle Cannon to kick
A Jan. 1 fundraiser to benefit Kyle Cannon, the Clay hockey player
off the New Year.
The Clay sophomore, who was paralyzed from the chest down in an on-ice hit during the Eagles’ hockey game near Dayton in November 2008, had a day he will never forget during a Jan. 1 fundraiser at Lucas County Arena.
“It was great. It was very emotional,” said Kyle’s father, Jim Cannon.
The fundraiser was one of several that have been held to help the Cannon family pay for Kyle’s medical bills. Kyle’s No. 3 jersey was officially retired by Clay before the start of the Eagles’ exhibition game against Northwest Hockey Conference rival Anthony Wayne.
Both prep teams wore special jerseys that were auctioned off after the game. Fans who attended the game could also bid on an autographed Detroit Red Wings jersey of NHL legend Gordie Howe as well as a Walleye jersey and other hockey memorabilia during a silent auction.
Cannon, 15, was honored during a pregame ceremony at center ice. In attendance to drop the ceremonial first pucks were U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, WIOT radio deejay Grizzly Brown and Walleye coach Nick Vitucci.
Cannon received a standing ovation during the ceremony.
“That got me good,” Jim Cannon said. “That brought back as if he just got hurt yesterday. It all came full circle. Now we have a different set of problems – a different feeling than the initial injury. It was like, ‘Why did this happen to me? Why did it happen to Kyle?’ Those feelings all came back.
“It was a pretty tough day in the beginning. The ovation was great when he dropped the puck.”
Jim Cannon said Kyle seemed to be pleased with the outpouring of support.
“He’s so hard to read,” Jim said. “I can tell you I’ve never seen him smile the way he did that day. It had to be the amount of people that were there. Usually he won’t talk to reporters or go on camera, but he talked to every single person there.”
Following Anthony Wayne’s 6-1 exhibition victory over Clay, Kyle and his family sat in an arena suite to watch the Walleye take on Kalamazoo, which won 1-0. The suite was purchased by parents from Clay and Anthony Wayne. “It was a great experience,” Jim Cannon said. “Kyle never really said much about it. He’s a man of few words anyway. I just read his attitude and he was happier than I’ve seen him in a long, long time. I want to thank everybody who was involved - Anthony Wayne, Clay, the Walleye. We want to thank everybody. It was a perfect day.”
Kyle was presented with a framed hockey sweater bearing his No. 3 and a varsity letter from the team. All proceeds from the game – there was a $5 admission – will be donated to a fund to help with Kyle’s medical expenses. The sweaters that the Clay team wore each had “3” on the left shoulder in Kyle’s honor. Both teams’ uniforms had a “Kyle Cannon Benefit” inscription across the back.
The fundraiser drew 4,020 fans, making it the largest crowd ever to see a high school hockey game in Ohio. The attendance broke the Ohio scholastic hockey single-game record of 3,992.
“Having the opportunity for our players to participate in this game was a once-in-a-lifetime event for many of them,” Clay coach Mike Heck said. “The build-up and anticipation for this game was as exciting as the game itself. Once the puck was dropped, the players were focused on the game at hand. The 4,020 spectators did not affect how we played the game.
“This game was entirely devoted to Kyle Cannon,” Heck said. “We understood that it was not a league game; we played to have fun and insure that every member of the team had the opportunity to participate in this huge event.”
Heck said Cannon’s jersey travels with the team and usually hangs on the back wall above the Eagles’ bench.
“Kyle is remembered every time we step out onto the ice,” Heck said. “He is in every player’s heart, and it was the decision of the players to keep that jersey recognized by all players and fans. Even though he is not out on the ice with us, he is still a big part of this team.”
Brian Perkins, director of ticket sales and services for the Walleye, said he wasn’t surprised by the fan turnout.
“We know how supportive and passionate the hockey community in Northwest Ohio is,” Perkins said. “It was a great turnout for the first year of the event and is nice to see the community support Kyle through his ordeal. Clay and Anthony Wayne both put in a tremendous amount of time and effort into this event to make it a success, so to have the turnout we did was not a surprise at all.”
Perkins added that the atmosphere in Lucas County Arena that day was “fantastic.”
“For the open skate and the other events leading up to the high school game, it was a sense of community and everyone joining together for a good cause,” he said. “For the high school game, the atmosphere was electric as the fans cheered for their team and the band played the school fight songs.
“The Walleye were happy to participate in this event. The community has pulled together for Kyle, and we wanted to make sure we did our part in helping support Kyle and to help promote high school hockey in our area.”