When the morning sun appears over the horizon in South America, it beams down very few faces who’ve even heard of the Montreal Canadiens, never mind rooted for them for as long as they can remember.
But one of those few is 22-year-old Ryan Stotland, a Montreal native who’s currently in the midst of a 12,000-kilometre (7,500-mile) bike tour from Brazil to Ecuador in order to raise funds for a pair of charities he feels strongly about.
Shortly after he started the trip, Stotland began wearing a red Canadiens shirt, which he purchased at the Bell Centre store at his father’s suggestion. Stotland’s specific garment selection turned out to be unwise, however. A bicycle jersey was available, but he inexplicably opted for sweat-absorbing cotton-T.
“Not the best choice with the humidity,” laughed Stotland, whose journey is scheduled to end Dec. 6 in Quito, Ecuador.
Stotland, who began his trek in Rio de Janeiro on July 26 as part of an organized expedition, has met many people along the way after they recognized the famous ‘CH’ symbol on his chest.
The one time he found another person actually donning the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge, however, it didn’t turn out as he hoped, though it did provide a good chuckle.
“I was sitting in an Internet café and I saw a guy across the street wearing a Habs jersey,” Stotland recalled. “I couldn’t believe it, so I ran up to the guy and said to him ‘Oh my god, I’m from Montreal, too!’ But the guy had no idea who the Canadiens were…I think people in South America just end up with these random sports shirts.”
Beyond being a good icebreaker, his duds have helped him gather attention from hockey media outlets and with the Montreal Canadiens club itself. Team president Pierre Boivin recorded a message that was used in a promotional video for Stotland’s venture.
The two causes that will equally benefit from the donations – nearly $130,000 to date – are the planned skin cancer center at Jewish General Hospital located in Montreal and the David Suzuki Foundation, an environmental organization.
“The amount of money raised has been great,” Stotland said.
The South American ride isn’t the first time Stotland has put foot over foot in a charity effort. In the summer of 2006, he gathered $160,000 for the same skin cancer foundation by cycling 8,000 kilometers from Victoria, B.C., to St. John’s, Nfld.
Cancer is something close to Stotland’s heart as both his mother and grandmother have battled and survived the disease and he felt an environmental group would fit well with the idea of cycling, as an attempt to promote a mode of transportation other than cars. As well, the two causes have a natural, unfortunate tie.
“Skin cancer rates have been rising exponentially as a result of the damage we are doing to the environment and the disease is now the most prevalent form of cancer,” said Stotland.
Something he’s determined to do something about.
For more information on Stotland’s journey, check out 12000km.org.
Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog appears Thursdays.
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