By Jonesa Rodriguez - October 24, 2022
For nearly 50 years, Dr. Vernon Sondak, chair of the Department of Cutaneous Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center, has been lacing up his skates and hitting the ice to play hockey. As a goaltender, Sondak found his passion while in high school.
“I couldn’t skate very well, so I was put to work as a goaltender and I’ve been playing hockey ever since,” Sondak said.
Throughout his hockey career, Sondak has played for several amateur teams including the Detroit Bandits, the Clearwater Coast Guard and the New Western Warriors, with whom he won the Clearwater Ice Arena C League championship.
A physician by day and goaltender by night, he can be found on the ice three to four times a week playing with his current team, Pasco Fire, as well as skating in other rinks in and around Tampa.
As a hockey fanatic, it comes as no surprise that Sondak formed a team and competed in the Sk8 to Elimin8 Cancer 3v3 Adult Hockey Tournament to support a familiar cause: cancer research.
“I was excited about participating in the tournament because it was a chance to skate on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s home ice, something most people never get to do,” Sondak said. “And it was for a good cause, and I’m all for anything that brings awareness to what we’re doing at Moffitt regarding patient care and research.”
Sk8 to Elimin8 Cancer is a peer-to-peer fundraiser that empowers the figure skating and hockey communities to join the fight against cancer.
Hosted by the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation and in partnership with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the tournament made its way to the Tampa Bay area for the first time, bringing out all the hockey enthusiasts for a good cause: to turn cancer upside down.
The daylong tournament hosted 18 teams in three divisions, from beginners to advanced. Each team played five high-intensity half-ice round-robin style games over eight hours.
Sondak and Team Cutaneous played in the intermediate division. He was joined on the ice by two members of the Pasco Fire team and two other players who were assigned to the team. Team Cutaneous played against several familiar foes, including his former team from the Clearwater Coast Guard base and others from across Florida. And while Team Cutaneous didn’t leave as tournament winners, they were grateful for the unique experience.
“The ability to come through the tunnel and skate on the Lightning’s home ice and even just sitting on their bench and looking up at the banners was a huge thrill,” Sondak said.
Players participating in the tournament were tasked with fundraising, with all proceeds benefiting the CARES Foundation and Moffitt. Team Cutaneous raised over $1,000, with support from members of Moffitt’s Cutaneous Oncology Program. In total, over $32,800 was raised.
The Scott Hamilton Cares Foundation says the tournament was the organization’s highest fundraising hockey event to date thanks to the tremendous generosity of the Tampa Bay area hockey community.