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Winterhawks forward dedicates season to brother fighting cancer

(Family Photo)

Ryan Hughes, one of the Portland Winterhawks young stars, is playing for more than just his team, he’s also working to make his younger brother, who is battling cancer, proud.

The Winterhawks forward is having a great season but with plenty on his mind. His 10-year-old brother Ethan just had surgery and is now undergoing chemotherapy to address kidney cancer.

“He even asked the doctor to make him a brace to put over the port that he has in his chest so that he can start playing hockey again in February,” said Ryan, adding that he can’t imagine going through something similar, especially at his brother’s age. “No way. He’s one of the toughest guys I’ve met in my life.”

Ryan and his three brothers were together for the holidays at home in Alberta, Canada and Ryan saw Ethan’s treatments firsthand.

“The first couple times was a bit tough for him,” Ryan said. “He threw up the first time, but now he’s nine weeks into it. I went with him once and he got the chemo done, and right when we got home he’s like, ‘Can we go out to the pond and play hockey together?’ So it’s pretty amazing how tough he is.”

It’s a toughness that Ryan’s Winterhawks’ teammates say runs in the family.

“He’s a small guy but he has just as much heart as anyone on the team, and it’s the same with Ethan. I met him last year and he’s a great kid,” said Conor MacEachern.

“Ryan’s probably one of the toughest guys on the team,” said Brett Clayton. “He’s not the biggest, but his little brother really resembles him in that way.”

And that family resemblance now includes a shaven hairstyle as Ryan dedicates his season to his youngest brother.

“I’m sure he doesn’t want to be bald at 10 years old, so me and a few guys back home and my brothers, we decided we’d shave our heads for him,” Ryan said.

Now Ryan’s playing some inspired hockey for a little brother who’s always on his mind.

“The first few games, once I found out, all I wanted to do was score him a goal,” Ryan said. “So it’s pretty special being able to play for him.”

He scored that one goal for Ethan and plenty more this season. So far, he has 14 goals.

As for Ethan, he’s got two more months of chemotherapy, but his prognosis is excellent. His doctors say he’ll be back on the ice playing hockey in March.

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