No upcoming games scheduled at this time
By Michael Fornabaio / Connecticut Post
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers were supposed to hold “Stick It 2 Cancer” this weekend, but one of their biggest supporters will has already stuck it.
Ray Lietuvninkas has been a fixture at Webster Bank Arena from the start, quick with tales of hockey history, encyclopedic on the Sound Tigers. And now he’s a survivor of prostate cancer.
“If not for hockey,” Lietuvninkas said, “I think I’d be in a different place right now. As much as wins and losses are the big focus in sports, caring about a team and a team caring about you makes a big difference.”
Lietuvninkas was feeling off over the summer. Blood work revealed an elevated PSA level. In case of a false positive, a urologist had the blood work done again; it was still elevated, though less so.
“In early September, I had a biopsy,” Lietuvninkas said. “Every portion of my prostate had what is considered advanced prostate cancer. I had two options: chemo and hormone treatment, or surgery to remove my prostate.”
The way he figured it, if his prostate was removed, he wasn’t getting prostate cancer again. He had surgery in January. Four weeks later, he was declared cancer-free.
“Anybody having cancer can get depressed, down. You don’t know what your future is,” Lietuvninkas said. “The only thing was the Sound Tigers.
“For me, it’s never been about the record. It’s about watching kids develop and supporting the team. In a lot of ways, hockey saved my life.”
He said his son Andrew was a big help keeping his spirits up, and his wife, Debbie, was of course a major supporter.
“Mama Tiger,” he said with a smile you could hear over the phone.
Both are past presidents of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Booster Club and are still involved with the organization.
He kept his story quiet for a while, even to close friends and neighbors at the arena, until after his surgery.
“I only missed two games,” he said, “and I was well aware of what was going on those two games.”
Coaches and players have checked in on him; a former Sound Tigers player, too, he said. Alan Fuehring, the team’s director of broadcasting and communications, has kept the team and him in contact. He already misses Ryan Bourque, traded to Charlotte last week after almost three years in Bridgeport.
It has been a tough season for the team. They’ll miss the playoffs and have the fewest goals in the AHL.
Still, for Lietuvninkas, “it’s going to be a special season,” he said. “I’ve been able to see the kids develop. The progress (teenage forward Simon) Holmstrom has made. (Oliver) Wahlstrom.
“And in December, the kind of month for (AHL Player of the Month) Kieffer (Bellows), who I had developed a relationship with last year.