Former Team Canada and Philadelphia Wings goalie, Chris Sanderson passed away Thursday morning.
By: Matt Kinnear
Former Team Canada goalie Chris Sanderson died early Thursday morning after his battle with brain cancer took a turn for the worse this week. The 38-year-old was known as one of the greatest field lacrosse goalies to hail from Canada.
Sanderson’s fight came to an end after an epic journey with cancer that lasted nearly four years.
The legendary lacrosse figure was originally diagnosed with a grade IV malignant brain tumor called Glioblastoma Multiforme in December, 2008. The 2006 ILF gold medalist fought back, miraculously representing Canada at the 2010 FIL World Championships in England, helping the Canadians to a silver medal.
The type of cancer he was diagnosed with is almost always terminal, with an average survival duration of nine to 12 months. Philadelphia Wings Co-Owner and President Michael French, released a statement Wednesday. Sanderson played played two seasons for the Wings and served as an assistant coach from 2005 to 2011.
“This is a very sad day for all Wings fans, Wings players, coaches, management and ownership,” wrote French. “Chris’ leadership, spirit and sense of humor were just some of his wonderful traits he possessed. As a fellow Canadian I am eternally grateful for all he did for our national team and our sport. On behalf of the Wings we pass on our deepest condolences to Brogann and Chris’ two beautiful daughters and all of his extended family. May he rest in peace.”
Sanderson battled through multiple surgeries since his appearance in the 2010 world games, and his wife chronicled his experience in a CaringBridge blog. He is survived by his wife, Brogann, and two young daughters: Stevie and Clementine.
This past March, an MRI showed dramatic growth of a tumor in his brain, and doctors in a Philadelphia-area hospital determined surgery would be necessary.
“Time to say goodbye,” Brogann titled a Monday blog entry as Chris’ condition deteriorated, he left the hospital and hospice was arranged.
The Orangeville, Canada native’s accomplishments made him one of the greatest field lacrosse goalies to hail from Canada. His biggest accolades have come in international play, but also included years playing in the Canadian box leagues, the National Lacrosse League (he won the 2001 NLL Champion’s Cup with the Philadelphia Wings) and as an assistant coach with the Wings. In college, Sanderson led Virginia to two Final Fours: one of a very select few Canadian goalies to play the position in the NCAA.
Early in his career, he won two Minto Cups (1993 and ‘95) with the Orangeville Northmen. He was the co-winner of the Bob Melville Trophy for Fewest Goals in an OLA Junior A Series in ‘94 and ‘95.
Shortly after graduating from Virginia, he joined Team Canada. In the 1998 World Games, Sanderson and Canada had a game for the ages against the United States in the finals, falling in overtime after overcoming an 11-goal deficit. He was selected to the All-World Team and voted best goalie of the tournament. He earned a silver medal again in 2002 for Canada.
In 2006, Sanderson and the Canadians ended the United States’ 28-year winning streak at the World Championships. He became the first goalie to earn the All-World designation twice.
The miraculous comeback occurred when Sanderson suited up for the 2010 World Games in England, where the Canadians fell to the United States in the final.
He skipped chemotherapy to play for Canada in 2010, one of many examples of toughness through his battle. Two weeks after his initial surgery in 2009, Sanderson was back behind the bench for the Philadelphia Wings as an assistant coach.
“You see the way Chris handles it, how upbeat he is, and I asked myself why [I’m] acting like a baby; his positive attitude and strength made me stronger,” then-Wings coach Dave Huntley said at the time in an Inside Lacrosse magazine story.
His brother Ryan — instrumental in Chris’ fight with cancer — passed away in July 2011. Another younger brother, Dustin, beat the odds after suffering a spinal injury in a 2001 box lacrosse game, making remarkable strides after doctors said he would be in a wheelchair the rest of his life.
Sanderson’s family is one of the most successful in all of lacrosse. His cousins Josh, Phil and Nate have all played in the National Lacrosse League, as well as the Canadian box leagues; his uncles Lindsay and Terry are among the game’s more successful coaches.
Supporters have rallied around Chris and his family in the time of need, donating more than $20,000 for a fund to assist in the family’s travel expenses.
“You all have been the backbone of this journey for Chris and Brogann and clearly that support, loyalty, love and team spirit is unwavering. It goes without saying, but this numeric expression of love and support will ease a lot of unnecessary angst in the days ahead,” Brogann’s brother, Mark, wrote in a blog post after the overwhelming show of support.
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