Wednesday 14 May 2014

Michael Farber and his battle back from cancer: honouree at upcoming gala

The following is an expanded version of my Wednesday, May 14 column in The Suburban print edition.

Michael Farber and I go back a long time. The award winning senior writer for Sports Illustrated and weekday morning contributor to the CJAD Andrew Carter Show, a great feature he does with Rick Moffat,  was my journalism professor at Concordia University back in the early 1980s when lengthy assignments had to be churned out on a typewriter. We were also colleagues at the time in the local professional press boxes.
Farber in the press box (photo by Rick Moffat)
I remember the major assignment I handed in. Michael allowed us to pick our topic. At the time I was writing for paper called The Sunday Express and covered the professional boxing scene so I chose to write about the Hilton brothers. At the time this family of boxers were clear of scandal. It was a 25 page piece, double spaced, and Michael tore it to shreds. Oh how I would have loved a computer at the time as I  had to redo it twice.

In 2011, Farber’s life turned upside down when he learned that he had stage three mouth and throat cancer. "It was six weeks of treatment: chemo on Mondays and radiation Mondays through Fridays, ¨ he said. “I couldn't eat normally. I had a feeding tube inserted. But when it was all over I was given a clean bill of health.”

Farber has accepted to be the honouree at the 20th annual McGill Head and Neck Cancer Fundraising Gala on May 25 at The Windsor Ballroom. Organizer Dr. Saul Frenkiel, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery at McGill University,  notes that the Stanley Cup will on site, as will a number of celebrity athletes. CJAD morning man Andrew Carter,  legendary  Red Fisher and former Hab Larry Robinson will speak while TSN’s Dave Hodge will serve as emcee.  A live auction of shirts from Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Mario Lemieux,  Anthony Calvillo and Guy Lafleur  will take place and  they will be offering four all inclusive tickets to attend the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Event in New York.

“We talked about me being the honouree at their annual event for a while,” Farber said. “I told them that if I could help, I would. They helped me in ways I can never really repay.

“They” are Doctors Martin Black and Michael Hier of the Jewish General Hospital. “Probably the best thing I heard was  Dr. Black saying, ‘yeah, we have seen this before. I think we can get it.’ That was encouraging. When I was growing up and you heard someone had cancer, it was ballgame over.  That has changed for the better now.”  
Dr. Frenkiel
Said Dr. Frenkiel: “Michael Farber is the reporter with ‘inner soul’  who has contributed immensely to Montreal's sports and hockey heritage.

Farber's son Jeremie  will be bag piping to usher in the Stanley Cup and the guests. Michael has a daughter, Gabrielle, who is a sports writer based out of Moscow.

Farber grew up in the city of Bayonne, New Jersey, home to an active Jewish community. He had his bar mitzvah at Temple Beth Am, a reform congregation. While he was not involved in a lot of Jewish activities, he did  play  basketball at the local Jewish community centre.

It would not be until January 2013 that Farber made his first trip ever to Israel. The task at hand was to be part of a crew on TSN doing a documentary called  Neutral Zone: The Story of Hockey in Northern Israel. It examined a  Canada-Israel Hockey School, which opened  in Metula, on the northern tip of Israel next to the border with Lebanon. More specifically, it looked into whether teaching hockey to Arab and Jewish children could help promote tolerance off the ice.

“It was very impressed with the people of Metula and the passion some Israelis have for hockey,” Farber said. “There were those who made the drive up from Tel Aviv. That is quite a trip. I knew of the late Roger Neilson’s hockey schools in Israel and of Jean Perron coaching their national team.”  

You can see the entire  documentary here.  

Said Dr. Frenkiel: “Michael Farber is the reporter with ‘inner soul’  who has contributed immensely to Montreal's sports and hockey heritage.

For more information  about the gala and how to get tickets call  Carole Goldberg at 514-340-8222, Local 5024, email or log on to raised will benefit Head and Neck Cancer research at McGill and its affiliated hospitals. 


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