Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis has affected his face, speech and right arm, but here he was with his wife, Kelsie, and their children — Cohen, 10, and Willa, 7 — to present the Norris Trophy and raise awareness of the progressive neuromuscular illness.
Snow thumped his chest with his left arm in appreciation.
“ALS is an isolating disease,” Kelsie told the audience. “Thanks for always reminding us that we are not alone.”
“Now we hand out the trophy to the best defenseman,” Chris said. “I know that these guys are so vitally important. When constructing the roster, they are the foundation of the team.”
“Here are the nominees for the James Norris Memorial Trophy,” Kelsie said.
Video: Chris Snow and his family speak at NHL Awards
After a video montage of Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators, Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Hold Makar of the Colorado Avalanche, they opened a box containing the winner’s name.
“And the Norris Trophy goes to…” Chris said.
“Cale Makar!” Cohen said.
Each presenter was special Tuesday.
There was Thomas Hodges, who overcame blindness in one eye to play in a game for the Anaheim Ducks this season as an emergency backup goalie.
There was Jake Thibeault, a Milton Academy (Massachusetts) player who was paralyzed by an injury in September 2021.
There was Nadia Popovici, a Seattle Kraken fan who spotted a cancerous mole on the neck of Vancouver Canucks assistant equipment manager Red Hamilton from behind the glass.
And then there were the Snows, who represented more than themselves.
“It’s a huge honor,” Chris said. “This night is about the players and their achievements, and to not only allow us to participate but to share our story is such an awesome way to honor the people with the disease, not just us. Hey, this disease deserves more attention shined on it, and we’re really grateful to the League for doing that.”
Chris and Kelsie have been open and honest about their experience with ALS via social media, and Kelsie has shared their story and others’ stories via her blog and podcast “Sorry, I’m Sad.” They have raised awareness and money via efforts like #weaksidestrongwhich challenges people to do something they love but with their opposite hand or foot.
“This is a disease that happens in the darkness, right?” Kelsie said. “It’s such an overwhelming disease just to live with that most of the time people can’t advocate and can’t be a face for it while they’re going through it. You go home, and you just try to get through every day , and you’re just gutting it out every single day.
“And so, for us to have the opportunity for him to be as healthy as he’s been for as long as he’s been, really allows us to put a public face to it. And that’s the goal, right? It’s not, like, ‘ Oh, we’re inspiring.’ That’s not what we’re here for.
“We’re here to just say, ‘Hey, look at us. There’s a ton of other people like us, and we want you to see this disease and understand that it’s happening to young families. It’s not just happening to grandparents. It’s happening to young dads, young moms.'”
Chris received his diagnosis in June 2019, not long after losing his father, two uncles and a cousin to ALS. At 37, he was told to do what brings him joy. But what brings him joy is living, and so he pursued an experimental therapy to slow the disease. The 40-year-old has kept working for the Flames, and his family has savored every moment together, big and small.
Take Game 7 of the Western Conference First Round between the Flames and Dallas Stars at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary won 3-2 in overtime.
“That was a pretty emotional experience, just because you don’t know, right?” Kelsie said. “You never know going in, like, ‘Well, is this going to be my last chance?’ And so those things are always big. They’re so much more on the front of our mind than for other people, the notion that we need to hold onto that moment and remember it.”
The Snows landed in Tampa on Monday and went straight to see the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Rays GM Peter Bendix asked for Cohen’s favorite player, then told the Snows to go to the dugout after the game for a surprise. Outfielder Brett Phillips puts them with gifts — a signed Phillips jersey for Cohen, plus hats and signed baseballs for each kid.
The kids wore them to rehearsal for the NHL Awards on Tuesday morning, then dressed up for the show on Tuesday night.
Cohen said he most wanted to meet Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, who did a #weaksidestrong challenge himself on Twitter, hitting tennis balls lefthanded. Matthews appeared emotional during the standing ovation for the Snows before winning the Hart Trophy, voted most valuable player by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, and the Ted Lindsay Award, voted most outstanding player by the NHL Players’ Association.
The Snows will attend Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Avalanche and Lightning at Amalie Arena on Wednesday (8 pm ET; ABC, ESPN+, CBC, SN, TVAS) before returning to Calgary, where Chris will continue his offseason work for the Flames.
“Walking out of ballpark yesterday, Cohen said, ‘I’ll forever remember this,'” Kelsie said. “I said, ‘I wonder how many more times he’s going to say that this week.'”