CEDAR PARK — Derek Hulak’s hockey stick isn’t game-ready until he’s penned the initials “A.H.” on the white tape that’s wrapped around the butt end of his black-and-green CCM model.
Once the game begins, Hulak, a 25-year-old forward for the Texas Stars, will glance at the initials and gain both comfort and a bit of perspective as he thinks about his mother, Alina Hulak, who died in 2007 after a two-year battle against breast cancer.
“I started doing that day one when she got diagnosed,” he said. “For me at the time, I didn’t think of that as (being) in honor of (her). I thought of it as a perspective thing.
“It really put things in perspective for me, and I found that if I had a tough shift or I was really tired at any part of the game, I would look at those initials and realize what I’m going through is nothing compared to other people.”
Hulak honors his mother’s memory every time he steps on the ice, and his team will share a similar message when Texas stages its annual “Pink in the Rink” weekend with a pair of games against the Rockford IceHogs.
The Stars will wear pink jerseys that will be auctioned after Saturday night’s game at Cedar Park Center, and all proceeds will benefit Breast Cancer Resource Centers of Texas, team officials said.
Even as she fought cancer, Alina Hulak was a “hockey mom in every sense of the word,” her son said.
Before being diagnosed, Alina often awoke at 5 a.m. to prepare breakfast for Derek and his older brother, Dan, before their 6 a.m. practices. She traveled across Canada to games and tournaments, putting thousands of “hockey miles” on the family car.