The Barrie Colts are rallying behind their long-time head coach, Dale Hawerchuk, with a new campaign to raise money for cancer research.

The OHL team announced on September 3, that Hawerchuk would be taking a leave of absence to deal with unspecified health issues. It was revealed the following month that the 56-year-old was in the fight for his life, battling stomach cancer.  

The hockey organization has decided to launch a personalized Movember campaign, with players and staff growing moustaches throughout the month of November. They’ve also kicked off a GoFundMe page, hoping to raise at least $5,000 for stomach cancer research.

“Our goal is really just to honour Dale, someone who has been here for so long and done so much for the city, the community, and this team. We want to do this for him,” says Colts social media manager Michael Raskin.

In the first five days alone, the campaign raised more than $2,000.

“(For anyone that knows) Dale well, we know he’s a fighter and he’s going to fight this straight on. Obviously, we’re thinking about him every day,” says Colts captain Jason Willms.

Hawerchuk has been undergoing chemotherapy. His team won’t comment on how he’s doing, but the franchise’s longest-serving coach remains optimistic, and says he “wants to live to tell the story.”

The Colts have also started a new victory tradition in honour of Hawerchuk. After every winning game, one player gets to wear a bright yellow hard hat with their beloved coach’s initials and favourite sayings inscribed on it.

Warren Rychel, who is standing in as the team’s coach this season, says the hat personifies Hawerchuk’s approach to the game. “He preached hard work and dedication. A hockey team is like a family and he’s guided these guys for a long time. Enough can’t be said about how good of a coach he was.”

The GoFundMe campaign will continue until the end of November.