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A young man’s fearless and selfless cancer battle is an inspiration to all whose lives he has touched

Riley Kane poses with his good friend, Caleb Schroeder, who is holding the sign he created to show support for his buddy. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)
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His flag bearing mission accomplished, a gleeful Riley makes his way back to his proud parents. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

SAINT PAUL — Less than an hour prior to the Minnesota Wild’s Nov. 2 home game against the Ottawa Senators, 8-year-old Riley Kane was asked to reveal his favorite Wild player.

“Kaprizov,” Kane said of Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov, through his endearing grin. “He scores a lot of goals.”

At that moment, however, the Wild’s $45-million-man had not done so through eight games of the 2021-22 season. When Kaprizov buried his first regular-season goal since May 7 in overtime to lift the Wild to a 5-4 win over the Sens, perhaps no one, including Kaprizov himself, was happier than Kane watching from his seat in Suite 24 at Xcel Energy Center.

It was a fitting way to cap off the Wild’s annual Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night, an evening which saw Wild players warm up in lavender jerseys, the color representing all forms of cancer, and fans holding up signs honoring loved ones lost to the devastating disease. The children of Tom Kurvers, the late Wild assistant general manager who passed away from lung cancer June 21, 2021, led the ‘Let’s Play Hockey’ chant prior to puck drop.

Although Kapriov’s goal may have been a fortunate coincidence that night, Kane’s presence, unfortunately, was not. Kane, who has been fighting his own battle against cancer, was selected by the Wild to be the game’s honorary flag bearer, a youth hockey player charged with planting the team’s flag at center ice as the game’s combatants step onto the rink before each Minnesota home game.

At Riley’s routine annual exam in December of 2020, his doctor noticed a lump on one of his testicles. The doctor thought it was a hernia and referred the Kanes to a specialist. Pandemic-related scheduling issues pushed that appointment back into February and, upon examination, the specialist immediately referred them to Minneapolis Children’s Hospital. Two days later, Riley underwent surgery to remove a tumor from the affected testicle and, on Feb. 17, the biopsy results came back confirming the Kane family’s worst fear: The tumor was cancerous.

“It was pretty heart wrenching,” said Riley’s father Jeff, who lost his father to lung cancer two years ago. “At that point we’d kind of expected it. Not to say it wasn’t still a shock, but it feels like your stomach just drops out and it’s tough.”

“You feel helpless because you can’t fix it,” added Riley’s mom, Tera. “You can bring him to his appointments and you can connect him with all the right people, but you can’t fix him. You have to hope that the doctors and the nurses and everybody else is able to.”

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Minnesota Hockey Magazine Executive Editor Brian Halverson is a former member of the Minnesota Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. His work has been published in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Miami Herald, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Hartford Courant, Dallas Morning News and

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