The seventh annual Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Tournament will mark a huge step forward for 15-year-old Sam Loslo.
Loslo had his final chemotherapy treatment on Tuesday, ending a gruelling 25-month battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“I’ve been in remission for about a year now,” Loslo said during a gathering last week at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre to launch the upcoming ball hockey tournament. “Now I get to stop going to chemo.”
Since February 2011, Loslo has been travelling to Hamilton for weekly chemotherapy treatments. His doctor gave him one-time approval to play in last year’s Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Tournament so he could participate in his favourite sport.
“It’s the sport I always had fun playing,” Loslo said. “I just find it a lot of fun to play with my friends.”
While he was given permission to play last year as long as he “took it easy,” Loslo will head into this year’s tournament on May 31, June 1 and June 2 at Lions Park with a clean bill of health.
He is even signed up to play in a local ball hockey league this spring.
“Despite the treatments, every time I see this young man he has the biggest grin on his face,” Lung Association fund development co-ordinator and street hockey tournament organizer Sandy Lee said. “It’s infectious.”
Loslo credits his positive attitude to mind over matter.
“I just try not to think about all the negative things I’m going through,” he said. “I just think about what’s positive.”
Opening ceremonies at this year’s tournament will again feature Loslo, Walter Gretzky and other dignitaries.
Lee said the tournament featured 212 teams last year, the first year it was taken on as a Lung Association event. $27,000 was raised for lung health research.
Lee hopes to see the tournament expanded to between 240 and 250 teams this year.
The Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Tournament holds the Guinness World Record for the largest street hockey tournament. Registration for the event is available online at www.waltergretzkystreethockey.ca.