It would have been understandable if NHL stars Kevin Shattenkirk and Anders Lee were distracted on Saturday. After all, both players have uncertain futures with their current teams and Saturday was the second day of the 2019 NHL Draft. But all the scuttlebutt in the world couldn’t keep them from hosting the Jam Kancer in the Kan Foundation’s #RennyJam at Versa NYC, just a few blocks away from the Garden.
On the ice, Shattenkirk and Lee represent two crosstown rivals that have been rivals since the Islanders joined the NHL in 1972. Off the ice, they are two of the Jam Kancer in the Kan Foundation’s most vocal and visible advocates. On Saturday, Shattenkirk and Lee put the rivalry between their clubs aside to raise money and awareness for children and families who have been affected by pediatric cancer.
“It’s about connecting, and bringing people together from different walks of life,” Shattenkirk told Blueshirt Banter. “We can all sit down and talk about what [pediatric cancer] means to each other. We’re all helping. We’re all here to make a difference, and that puts a smile on your face.”
Joining Shattenkirk and Anders Lee for Saturday’s event were New York Knicks legend Larry Johnson, Thomas Hickey of the New York Islanders, and Brendan Smith of the New York Rangers. Smith’s name has also been tumbling around the rumor mill since the offseason began, but you’d never know it from the way he dealt out high-fives and signed hats, shirts, and hockey cards. Like his teammate, he was all-in on making sure that the fans who donated money to attend and participate in Saturday’s KanJam tourney had a great time.
“It’s amazing,” Shattenkirk smiled. “There’s a beautiful day like this and he could be doing a lot of other things — that’s what our community is all about. Everyone is willing to help out, and Brendan is a prime example of that.”
Shattenkirk was first inspired to work with the Jam Kancer in the Kan Foundation after watching a video of Anders Lee’s first Kancer Jam. Lee held his third Kancer Jam in November, seven months after being named the captain of the Islanders.
It’s a special day for @leeberr09 and the #Isles.— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) November 18, 2018
Anders hosts his third annual @jamkancer event. This year we celebrate the memory of our friend Fenov. His smile was contagious and so was his fighting spirit. Join us in carrying out Fenov’s message. https://t.co/XuWJ4rGu4l pic.twitter.com/iulcKHEFZb
Lee’s relationship with the foundation began after he watched a video of a then-15-year-old Fenov Pierre-Louis give a speech at the Third Annual Scotch Plains Kancer Jam in 2016. Tragically, Fenov succumbed to his disease last July, but his passion and influence were very much present on Saturday.
“To see the amounts of children that we see who have to battle this is tough, but, in turn, those children are so strong and so tough,” Lee told Blueshirt Banter. “You get to meet them and you realize that they’re all just like any other kid. They don’t know anything better to do than to fight. Kevin and I are in a position where we can reach a lot of people. It’s an extremely easy thing to do, to give you time and effort to do something like this. It’s the stuff that you want to do. It’s easy to do.”
Fenov was never far from anyone’s thoughts during Saturday’s event. The banner that provided a backdrop to the round-robin KanJam tournament featured his words and face. That banner and the presence of Shattenkirk, Lee, Johnson, Smith, and Hickey made the #RennyJam feel like a celebration of life.
“If you look outside at that banner — which hangs at every single event we do — it has a picture of our friend Fenov,” said Jamey Crimmins, who came up with the idea for the Jam Kancer in the Kan Foundation. “Anders and I were both very close to Fenov. He battled neuroblastoma since he was nine. We all knew that he was going to die. We all knew it was going to take him, and the kid never had a bad day in his life. Everything was positive, everything was upbeat. Everything was ‘anything you can do to improve the life of a child affected with cancer would mean the world,’ so that’s what we do.”
Crimmins believes the best thing we can do to celebrate the lives of those we have lost, like Fenov and countless other children who have been taken away from us because of pediatric cancer, is to bring light into the lives of those who are going through a hard time. It is for that reason that Shattenkirk and Lee are ideal ambassadors for the foundation.
“You’ll see them battling in front of the net and beating each other up, but they came together to do this,” Crimmins shared. “This is so much more more than just, ‘okay, let’s spend a day.’ Kevin’s going to become a father next month ... Anders was home in Minnesota, and he has a little bit of a contract situation going on right now, but this morning he got up at 6:00 a.m. to be here. They’re just good people. They’re good hockey players and good people.”
Crimmins believes that the beauty behind the Jam Kancer in the Kan Foundation is that anyone can do something similar to make a difference. It all started with an idea. An idea to do some good by having some fun in the backyard with a Frisbee and a couple of plastic barrels. Five years after that idea was shared, embraced, and put into motion, the Jam Kancer in the Kan Foundation has raised over $1,000,000 for 24 different charities.
In a previous interview with Blueshirt Banter, Shattenkirk shared his thoughts on how someone can find a way to make a difference.
I’ve also connected with some people who’ve attended my events that have put on their own KanJam events for their schools and communities. They’re raising a couple of thousand dollars here, or a couple of thousand dollars there. Really, that’s what it is all about — creating a community where we’re all doing our part. It doesn’t have to be at an event, it can be done anywhere and the money can go to any charity. That’s just one other way you can make a difference.
The goal for Saturday’s #RennyJam was to raise $30,000. After an unforgettable day of good food and lots of KanJam, laughter, and selfies, the event met that goal. While most of the hockey world buzzed and bantered about possible trades and draft picks, four NHLers chose to put their time and energy into doing a little bit of good and making a difference.