ARLINGTON, VA– Martin FehervaryHis thoughts will no doubt turn to his late mother, Gabike, during the Washington Capitals’ Hockey Fights Cancer game against the Colorado Avalanche at Capital One Arena on Saturday (7:00 p.m. ET; NBCSWA, ALT, ESPN+, SN NOW).
Gabike, who died of lung cancer in 2009, was a source of inspiration for the 23-year-old on his journey from promising young player growing up in Bratislava, Slovakia to established NHL defender near Washington.
“She died when I was 9. It’s been a while,” Fehervary said. “Even so, she was a big part of my life and we were very close, so it was a tough loss. I always think about her from time to time.”
But it will be difficult for Fehervary to top the special moment he had during Washington’s Hockey Fights Cancer Night game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on November 14 last season. Fehervary finished a shorthanded 2-on-1 with Tom Wilson at 4:25 of the first period for the Capitals’ first goal in a 6-1 win.
Later that evening, Fehervary posted on his Instagram account: “This one for you mum!! I really miss you. #hockeyfightscancer.”
It was Fehervary’s second NHL goal, one he will never forget.
“It was really emotional,” Fehervary said. “All those things, I’m really glad the NHL is doing Hockey Fights Cancer. Things like that are really good, this opportunity to help someone. I know how hard it is when someone in your family has cancer and is struggling through it. So , it was very emotional. Especially when I scored the goal, it was a really good feeling, but emotional.”
Fehervary, the middle child between younger sister Monika and older brother Gabriel, said he was perhaps closest to his mother of the three siblings. So it was difficult when Gabike was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 7.
“I was probably something of a mama’s boy,” Fehervary said. “My sister was very young and my older brother, he was always more like himself. He didn’t really show his feelings. But I was always with my mom and talked to her a lot and did literally everything with her.”
Though Fehervary was young, he remembers many of those two years, including the chemotherapy that caused his mother to lose her hair and feel ill.
“She always felt bad,” he said. “I felt sorry for her, but I was still happy when she came and picked me up from school. She wasn’t feeling well, so I really cherished those moments. Even when she was sick, she sometimes came out to my games. So those are really good memories when she showed up at the game.”
When Fehervary was 5 years old, his parents and a small group of other parents who were dissatisfied with the Slovan Bratislava program decided to follow the example of Adriana Hostovecka, a hockey mom who founded the Svist Hockey School. Fehervary’s father, Mario, and his mother took turns taking him to practice and games, and sometimes the whole family would travel to tournaments.
After Fehervary’s mother was diagnosed, the parents and players at Svist Hockey School, which also produced the Calgary Flames, stormed Adam Ruzickaalso became a support group.
“On the weekends when Mom was sick, there were teammates who would invite me home,” he said. “I would visit my teammates and go skiing with them or to all sorts of things like hockey tournaments. They tried to help overall.”
This continued after Gabike died and Mario was suddenly a single father of three.
“It was a really tight group,” said Fehervary. “There weren’t that many people and they tried to help each other and they helped us a lot, all these parents and my teammates too. That was a really good feeling when someone takes care of you.”
Fehervary left Slovakia at 15 to play in Sweden. That was the next step to eventually being selected by the Capitals in the second round (#46) of the 2018 NHL Draft.
Fehervary’s mother’s encouragement and how she dealt with her cancer diagnosis were driving forces in her journey.
“She was a big influence on how she struggled all the time and how she was always positive,” he said. “I remember all those good things. She had a really big impact on my life. … She probably didn’t think I’d be in the NHL, but she would definitely be proud. But she would support me in any other sport or whatever I would choose if it was a good path in life. She was always like that. That inspired me a lot.
“Once it was a good thing and you had a purpose, then she was for it.”
So Fehervary will take at least a moment on Saturday to think about his mother and all she has done for him. When he returned to the Capitals’ bench after scoring last season, he realized “something special” had happened.
Fehervary would love to score another goal for his mother, especially as he is yet to score in 19 games this season.
“Yes, it would definitely be about time,” he said. “I don’t really think about it [scoring]but I’m definitely trying to do my best in every game and it’s going to be a special night again.”