Cancer won’t keep hockey family down

Kalev de Kastrozza has been given seven to 11 months to live; he’s still following his son.

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comMarch 9, 2014 

When his son David first started playing hockey, Kalev de Kastrozza returned to the rink as well, to the sport he played as a youth on ponds in Massachusetts.

“It was a blast,” de Kastrozza said of his three seasons playing recreation league hockey.

It didn’t take long, however, for the true talent in the family to emerge. And soon vacations were being arranged around David’s hockey schedule.

“All of our vacations were hockey tournaments, while everybody else was going to Florida,” Peggy de Kastrozza said.

For the past week, Kalev and Peggy have been on another hockey vacation.

The New Jersey residents, who watch every Idaho Steelheads game on the Internet, made the trip to Las Vegas and Boise to watch David, a Steelheads forward, in person. It’s the first time in two years that Kalev has seen his son play in person.

They all know time may be short for these kinds of trips.

Kalev, 59, has been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and was recently given seven to 11 months to live. The cancer, which was thought to be in remission this summer, has spread from his lungs to his bones, abdomen and lymph nodes.

The Steelheads wore pink jerseys Friday and Saturday and auctioned them to benefit the St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute.

“I just wanted to come see David play and I really wanted to come to Boise. I really didn’t have a lot else to do,” said Kalev, who has stopped chemotherapy treatments but is awaiting acceptance into a program at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Making little memories.”

On the trip, David took his dad to Lucky Peak and the Old Idaho State Penitentiary as well as several dinners. The de Kastrozzas have quickly fallen for Boise.

De Kastrozza is in his second season with the Steelheads. He’s played in 56 games this year, tied for second on the team. The 27-year-old University of Maine product has 11 goals and 19 assists on the season. De Kastrozza assisted on Idaho’s final goal in Saturday’s 6-5 victory against Las Vegas at CenturyLink Arena.

He considered not returning to the team this season and finding an organization closer to his parents. In recent months, too, he has considered returning to be by his dad, but his parents have encouraged him to remain in Idaho.

“I definitely want to see him a little more. At the same time, he definitely wants me out here and staying active,” de Kastrozza said.

Said Kalev: “What would he stay home for? Let him come here and keep doing what he loves to do.”

Instead, David — who used to call his dad once a week or so — talks to Kalev every day. He plans to return to New Jersey after the season to spend more time with his dad.

He might want to avoid post-game chats, though.

“I’m like, ‘Oh my god. He’s perfect. He’s so fast. And my husband is like, ‘David, you should have shot the puck,’ ” Peggy said.

Said Kalev: “I’m his biggest critic.”

But he still loves watching David play. Kalev has adjusted his schedule to stay up late nights to watch the Steelheads’ games. It often means sleeping until the afternoon.

“It’s exciting to watch your kid play,” he said.

Everyone figured Kalev had plenty of games left. He was healthy with no symptoms when his son-in-law, a doctor, encouraged the cigar smoker to get checked out. The family was stunned by the original, unexpected diagnosis and by its recent spread.

Kalev has kept a sense of humor. Others are more blunt.

Said Peggy: “Cancer sucks.”


Idaho Steelheads veteran enforcer and fan favorite Jeremy Yablonski left the team after Friday night’s game. The 33-year-old Yablonski played sparingly in Friday’s loss to Las Vegas, but picked up a 4-minute penalty for slashing.

Yablonski, a 14-year veteran who played one game in the NHL, played in eight games for Idaho this season. He had one goal and 35 penalty minutes. It was his third stint with the organization.

He and his family live in Boise.

Steelheads snap losing skid

The Idaho Steelheads ended their season-high four-game losing streak with a 6-5 victory against last-place Las Vegas on Saturday night at CenturyLink Arena.

Idaho trailed 3-0 after the first period and 4-2 in the second, but rallied to tie the game at 4-4 entering the third period.

William Rapuzzi gave the Steelheads their first lead of the evening when he scored with 14:50 left in the third period. Gaelan Patterson made it 6-4 later in the period.

Las Vegas scored late in the third on Idaho goalie Pat Nagle, who replaced starter Josh Robinson in the second period. But the Wranglers could not tie the game.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444

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