Hockey players are known for being tough, strong, and dedicated on the ice. But for three junior hockey players, their strength and heart also shows off the ice.
Recently, former Aberdeen Wings player Zach Kraft was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer. The team had plans to hold a benefit weekend for Kraft, to help defray some medical expenses and traveling costs. But what the Aberdeen Wings organization did not know was how big the hearts of current players were.
Wings defenseman Dillon Eichstadt of Bemidji, Minnesota, approached the organization about donating his jersey from the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament to help raise funds for Kraft. Immediately, Wings captain Jake Horton of Plymouth, Minnesota and forward Jonathan Grebosky of Oakdale, Pennsylvania did the same donating their Top Prospects jerseys to the fundraiser. The three Aberdeen Wings players were selected to represent Team Central at the 2014 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament held in Troy, Michigan last month.
The jerseys will be auctioned off during first intermission this Friday, March 14th as the Aberdeen Wings host the Brookings Blizzard. All proceeds from the auction will go to Zach Kraft to help offset medical expenses and travel costs for treatment. Also, raffle tickets are being sold to win the Zach Kraft’s original #19 game-worn Wings jersey with all proceeds going to the fund. Last season, the jersey was purchased by Larry and Robin Hanson of Aberdeen, a Wings billet family. Through the generosity of the Hansons and friends, they have donated the jersey back to the fundraiser.
This season while playing for the Wisconsin Wilderness, Kraft was seeing a doctor following an injury when they discovered that he had a brain tumor. Following the surgery, medical experts discovered and later diagnosed Kraft with Glioblastoma, a cancer in the brain. Zach left the hospital with a desire to stay strong through it, because he has had to his whole life. There have been many obstacles in his life, including losing his mother Scarlet to breast cancer when he was only 11 years old.
After his mother passed away, he lived with his aunt and uncle in Grand Forks, North Dakota. In 2010, he moved to Fargo to live with his sister Cassie where he played hockey for the Fargo North Spartans. In overtime, at the state tournament, Kraft scored the game-winning goal. After graduating high school, Zach had the opportunity to join the Fargo Force of the USHL, before joining the Aberdeen Wings of the North American Hockey League. In 52 games with the Wings, Kraft scored 6 goals and added 8 assists.
Through the generous jersey donations by Eichstadt, Horton, and Grebosky along with the amazing support of the Aberdeen Wings family, one can truly say that junior hockey is more than just another hockey team in another hockey town. This is about supporting each other through the bright times in our lives as well as picking each other up when a teammate, a fan, or community deal with hard times.
This Friday, as the Wings host Brookings, Zach Kraft will be in attendance to say thank you to the Aberdeen Wings community for their support and prayers. If you would like to help support Zach Kraft and his battle with brain cancer, please send donations to 719 9th St. North, Fargo, ND 58102. Foundation checks can be made out to the Zach Kraft Benefit.
On behalf of the Aberdeen Wings organization, we would like to extend a thank you to all those who have shown support for Zach Kraft.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)