Sports: College hockey players become cheerleaders and brothers to their teammate battling cancer

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Imagine you're an All-American collegiate hockey player. It's your 25th birthday, you feel fit and healthy, and life seems full of possibilities. But then you're blindsided by a catastrophic medical diagnosis. You have cancer.

That was the mind-numbing reality for Luke Davison, who was just about to begin his senior season at St Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin.

"It was a five-minute phone call," Davison told WBAY-TV. "Basically told me I had cancer, and I had to go get a scan to see how bad it is."

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The scan revealed he had Stage 3 advanced Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and Davison was told he faced several rounds of chemotherapy.

"You go from the highs of the highs in the sports world and in life to the lows of the lows," St. Norbet's Head Coach, Tim Coghlin, told Green Bay's The Press Times. "We were devastated when it came out it was cancer, and this was a thing he was going to have to battle."

Wisconsin's St. Norbert College hockey team shows up to support teammate Luke Davison as he arrives at the hospital for his first round of chemo. © Provided by USA TODAY Wisconsin's St. Norbert College hockey team shows up to support teammate Luke Davison as he arrives at the hospital for his first round of chemo.

Davison was scheduled to have a port put into his chest for chemotherapy at Aurora Baycare Medical Hospital in Green Bay, Wisconsin. A GoFundMe was on its way to exceeding $30,000, and of course, he had the sympathy and support of friends and family. Nevertheless, the walk up to the hospital on a grey and windy morning was daunting. But he wasn't alone.

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Watch the video above to see Luke receive an incredible display of love and support from his family, friends, and teammates.

At the hospital entrance, Luke was treated to an unforgettable welcome from his entire hockey squad, plus coaches, friends, supporters, family, and even the team mascot. Banners and signs bore heartfelt messages, while fist bumps and embraces filled his heart with the spirit of the locker room.

The touching gesture was organized by Luke's friend and teammate Tim Nicksic, who reached out to Davison's fiancé for details of his first appointment.

"Everyone was on board, and I didn't know how it was going to go," Nicksic said. "We got there, and we got the Norby Knight costume, the coaches came, and we're all dressed up in our St. Norbert hockey outfits.

The surprise went even better than planned and had a profound effect on Luke.

"I was so happy to show up for the hospital because I saw like all my teammates there, coaches. And it was just like, alright this is no big deal. I got everybody behind me," Davison said.

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And the outpouring of support didn't stop when Luke entered the hospital as his hockey squad continued to rally around him for the duration of his chemotherapy, even shaving their heads to make him feel better after his own hair began falling out due to the chemo.

"My teammates were the biggest factor in keeping me sane and spreading positivity the best they could," Luke said. "They were incredible throughout the process."

The display of camaraderie and team spirit filled Luke's coach with pride.   "The troops rallied hard around him," said Tim Coghlin. "Everybody was in his corner. Our group was tremendous from start to finish."

And the team's gesture did not go unnoticed, as the video of their welcome committee grabbed attention all over the tight-knit hockey world.   Buffalo Sabres Head Coach, Don Granato, was among the first to make contact, and even had a jersey made to hang in the locker room bearing Davison's No. 28.

Meanwhile, all-time great, Mario Lemiuex, who had two bouts of Hodgkin's Lymphoma during his NHL career, sent a letter of support, a signed hockey puck, and a tee-shirt from the Mario Lemieux Foundation.     "I can't imagine people going through this alone because I've gotten so much support, and it's still hard," Davison said.

"It was amazing to see the amount of support in the hockey community," said Coach Coghlin. "Lots of prayers and lots of faith; that's how you get through it."

The treatment was grueling, though Luke did his best to keep up with his studies, working with his professors to finish his classes at St. Norbert to earn his degree.

Finally, after six months of chemo, the story had a happy ending when Luke learned he was cancer-free

"It's a new chance at life," he told The Press Times. “It's helped me learn not to take things for granted and show the people in my life you love them and how much they mean to you."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College hockey players become cheerleaders and brothers to their teammate battling cancer

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