Trick-shot challenge shines spotlight on Flames exec Chris Snow in fight with ALS

Published in the Calgary Sun June 19, 2020, written by Wes Gilbertson

Calgary Flames assistant GM Chris Snow — pictured here with his wife Kelsie and their children — has been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Photo courtesy of the Calgary Flames

It was on June 17, 2019, that Snow’s greatest fear was confirmed — he, like several family members before him, had been diagnosed with a deadly disease.

Wednesday came and went.

That seems like such a non-story, but for Calgary Flames assistant general manager Chris Snow, it was a massive milestone.

It was on June 17, 2019, that Snow’s greatest fear was confirmed — he, like several family members before him, had been diagnosed with a deadly disease.

“The doctor looked at me and said, ‘This is the early stage of ALS,’ ” Snow recalled. “I asked him, ‘How long do I have?’ And he said, ‘I would say a year.’ ”

One year. The start of a potentially crippling countdown. ALS attacks the communications between the brain and muscles, robbing a person of their ability to walk, talk, eat and even breathe.

June 17, 2020, didn’t need to be marked on any sort of calendar. Snow wouldn’t forget it.

But Wednesday came and went.

Snow is as busy as ever with the Flames, key to contract negotiations and statistical analysis and a valued perspective in hockey ops and pre-draft meetings.

The proud husband and father is still chasing his two kids — son Cohen and daughter Willa — around. In fact, he helped coach Cohen’s novice team this past winter.

He recently fired a hockey puck through two open windows — driver and passenger side — of a 2000 Nissan Pathfinder and nailed a 43-yard field goal. More on both in a minute.

As his wife, Kelsie, has put it, he is living with ALS.

Chris has now become an ambassador of sorts, the inspiration for the #TrickShot4Snowy initiative and a beacon of hope for many. The 38-year-old is enrolled in a clinical trial and for several months, there had been no change beyond the initial symptoms in his right arm. (He has since learned to complete everyday tasks without the use of his dominant hand, and the Flames’ equipment staff has sewn a special glove so he can stickhandle and shoot when on the ice.)

In mid-May, Kelsie revealed on her must-read blog that they had noticed a slight droop on the right side of his smile, a sign this aggressive form of ALS — the disease that claimed his father, two paternal uncles and a cousin — might not have been stopped in its tracks by the new treatment.

“It’s a day that I’ve thought about for a long time, a day that when I was diagnosed, I didn’t know if I would see,” Snow said of Wednesday’s significance. “As the months have gone by, especially into the mid-winter months, January, February, March, it was a day that I looked forward to with the thought I could be exactly the same as I was the day that I was diagnosed, and how much of a miracle that would be and how much that would sort of alleviate the emotional worry that I always have, to some degree, about how I’m going to be and how this will progress.

“With the development that I’ve seen, in terms of a change in a facial muscle or two and how that’s affected my smile, it’s introduced some worry about whether this is progressing in some way, so that’s maybe diminished a little bit the feeling I might have had that, ‘Wow, we’ve left this thing almost in our path. We’ve stopped this entirely.’

“So it’s a balance of that last concern but also just real appreciation. The reality is nobody in my family has had a story like mine with this disease, and I have the opportunity to have so much more time. My hope is that time is measured in decades, not years, but I will remind myself (Wednesday) and every day after that this time was in no way guaranteed to me. It’s quite the opposite — I shouldn’t have had it.”

Snow was busy Wednesday on Zoom interviews with 2020 NHL Draft prospects. In the late afternoon, the team — including a few players, plus coaches, management and other staff — surprised him with a drive-by party to mark the occasion.

He also booted a 43-yard field goal, his second addition to #TrickShot4Snowy, a (very cool) awareness and fundraising campaign launched last week by Calgary Sports & Entertainment and the Flames Foundation.