Sports

Sens' goalie Craig Anderson learns wife Nicholle has cancer

By Bruce Garrioch, Ottawa Sun

Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson with his wife, Nicholle. (CAROLINE PHILLIPS/ Postmedia)

Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson with his wife, Nicholle. (CAROLINE PHILLIPS/ Postmedia)

EDMONTON — Craig Anderson has been given a second leave of absence.

This one by his courageous wife Nicholle, who needs him a lot more right now than the Senators.

An emotional Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion, fighting back tears, delivered the devastating news Saturday before practice that Anderson’s 35-year-old wife Nicholle has been diagnosed with cancer and that’s why he was given a leave of absence Thursday to leave for Florida to be with his family.

But after learning the Senators have lost Andrew Hammond for at least a week with a lower-body injury he suffered Friday in Calgary, Nicholle Anderson encouraged her husband to rejoin the team and Craig Anderson will likely start Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers at the Rogers Place Arena.

Anderson was scheduled to land late Saturday night and was expected to meet with Dorion, along with the coaching staff, after his arrival.

“Nicholle Anderson has been diagnosed with cancer,” said Dorion, who was asked by the Anderson family to speak on their behalf. “It’s very early in the process. We don’t have many tests right now but we’re there for them and right now they’re in the wait period.

“Given that they’re in the wait period and Andrew Hammond’s (hurt), Nicholle told Craig to phone me, which he did during the game. We talked to Craig after the game and it was determined that because they’re in a wait period and they were going to drive to Ottawa together as a family today that it would be all right for Craig to come and rejoin his team.”

Dorion said this is a courageous move by the Anderson family.

This isn’t the first time the organization has been touched by the horrible disease. More than two years ago, Senators senior adviser Bryan Murray was diagnosed with prostate cancer and he goes through regular chemotherapy treatments while remaining active in the organization

“We’re very proud of Nicholle and Craig. They’re dealing with a tremendous issue right now,” Dorion said. “For him to be around his teammates, with his presence, he’s going to be embraced by his teammates and it’s only going to help us grow as a family and a hockey family.

“We want to reiterate our support for Craig, Nicholle, his family. His hockey family — Mr. Melnyk, our coaching staff, our support staff — are all behind him and we’re going to do anything we can for both Craig and Nicholle. We’ve gone through this with (GM) Bryan (Murray). We’re really united as a hockey organization and we believe in Hockey Fights Cancer.”

Dorion said he expects the Anderson family will address the media next week in Ottawa “if they feel up to it.

“Nicholle was the one who wanted Craig to come back. She was the one who said, ‘Craig, your teammates need you right now’. We made this decision after consulting with Craig and Nicholle, their doctors and we all felt because of this time frame it was all right for him to rejoin the team,” said Dorion.

“We have everyone’s support here. I think this is a tremendous gesture on the part of Nicholle Anderson. This shows how good the Anderson family is.”

He said Anderson’s presence in the room will have an impact.

“I think it means a lot to the team. I asked him and I said, ‘Craig you have to be with your wife and he said, ‘Pierre, she’s the one who told me to phone you. She’s the one that said Andrew went down and your team needs you right now,’ said Dorion.

“They’re in a holding pattern waiting for the tests, what procedures to go through and how to have the best treatment possible.

“That won’t be done for the next few days and (Craig) just felt, ‘why don’t I come back to the team?’ We wanted to make sure the doctors and Nicholle were sure because she was the one pushing this.”

Just because Anderson, a father of two, wanted to return, the Senators needed to be satisfied that he was doing the right thing.

How many times did Dorion ask him if Anderson was sure he wanted to do this?

“Quite a few ... quite a few,” Dorion said. “I think Erik (Karlsson) touched upon it the other day that family is way more important than hockey but, at the same time, Craig’s family is this hockey team.

“When you have those guys in that room that are going to embrace his presence, and rally around him, I think it can only be beneficial for all parties.”

Dorion said everyone’s thoughts and prayers should be with the Anderson family.

“To me it’s all about the courage that Nicholle Anderson is showing.”

COACHES PAY TRIBUTE TO ANDY'S FAMILY

EDMONTON — The Senators coaching staff wore their Hockey Fights Cancer ties Friday night in Calgary.

They’ll have them on again Sunday at Rogers Place Arena.

“We want to be behind (goaltender Craig Anderson’s family) and his wife (Nicholle) because we want to show that we’re together with them,” said Boucher following a 45-minute skate here Saturday.

The Senators have known since earlier this week that Nicholle Anderson had been diagnosed with the disease. Craig will be welcomed back with open arms when he goes back into the dressing room Sunday morning after spending the last few days at home with Nicholle and the couple’s two children.

“(Going home) was the right thing to do and he had our full support in that,” said captain Erik Karlsson. “We felt terrible and we still feel terrible for him and Nicholle. It’s not an easy thing for anyone to go through.

“With him coming back tonight I think it’s something everybody in (the room) doesn’t take lightly — leaving that situation at home to come and help us out and wanting to do so from himself and his wife shows what kind of character people they are. That’s true leadership and this team should have no problem feeding on it. We’re going to be happy to have him back and, at the same time, respecting whatever he wants to do in the future.”

Veteran winger Chris Neil had breakfast with Anderson in Vancouver before he left Wednesday and told him going home was the right thing to do.

“You really feel for them,” Neil said. “I just told him, ‘Go there, be there and take as long as you want’. I think for Craig’s sake, being able to come back for (Sunday’s) game and being a part of it, will help him get his mind off things even it’s just for three hours.

“It’s not the forefront of everything. For him, we can rally around this as well and he can rally around having the guy’s around as well. It’s important to feel the support from everyone and it could happen to anyone but when it’s this close to home it’s tough.”

Boucher said he’ll sit down with Anderson before deciding if he’ll start against Edmonton.

“I know he wants to play (Sunday) but we’ll see if things have changed and if he’s comfortable being ready to play,” Boucher said. “Right now, it’s tough for him and his family but he’s got a lot of people caring about him and that’s what we’re going to try to do in the next (few) days.”