It was an emotional moment for Austin Antell of Arlington Heights and his faithful Austin’s Army before the Chicago Blackhawks game Thursday night at the United Center. All eyes were on Austin as he got to “ring the bell” in the second period of the game, signaling the end of his cancer treatment. The cheers were deafening.
“There is absolutely no way I can even begin to adequately describe how incredible last night was,” his mother, Mandy Antell says.
Austin was one of six children battling cancer who were honored as part of the Hawks’ “Hockey Fights Cancer” night. As part of the festivities, he got to skate out during the starting lineup, fist bump with Johnathan Toews, and go into the locker room and sit in Patrick Kane’s locker.
For this young hockey player, who plays goalie for the Northwest Chargers Squirt Minor Central States team, based in Mount Prospect, it was the thrill of a lifetime. He even was introduced beside the Hawks’ starting goalie, Arvid Soderblom.
Austin’s parents, Adam and Mandy, say the special night was a once in a lifetime way to celebrate the end of Austin’s chemotherapy treatments, after battling Non-Hodgkin Burkitts B-Cell Lymphoma for the last four months.
His classmates at Westgate School, hockey teammates, family and friends have all have rallied around him, calling themselves Austin’s Army. They sold Austin’s Army T-shirts since the beginning, as a way to raise money for games and activities for the pediatric cancer unit at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital.
“When I first heard about (the cancer diagnosis) I wasn’t even bummed that I had it,” Austin says. “I was just really upset that I couldn’t play hockey with my friends.”
At Thursday’s game, however, all of his teammates wore Hawks’ jerseys with Austin’s name and number on the back. They all joined him when he rang the bell and marched down the halls of the United Center chanting “We are Antell!”
“We are so blessed to have such incredible family and friends,” Mandy added, “so many of which spent their Thursday night at the United Center cheering Austin on as he rang the bell.”
The Blackhawks did more than host this emotional night. They drew the support of CIBC, a leading North American financial institution, which sponsored the special evening and donated $20,000 to the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation to support cancer-related causes.
They continue to support Austin and his family. Here’s a video the Blackhawks shared on their Twitter feed that features his parents, doctor — and Austin himself.
Austin Antell, a 9-year-old youth hockey player rang the bell at last night’s game after recently completing his treatment from fighting against Non-Hodgkin Burkitts B-Cell Lymphoma 💜@CIBC_US | #HockeyFightsCancer pic.twitter.com/G5gq50bYyZ
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) November 4, 2022