Flames assistant GM Snow in ‘great spirits’ after surgery

Published in the TSN November 30, 2020, written by Salim Valji

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Calgary Flames assistant general manager Chris Snow is “in great spirits” after surgery in Calgary on Monday to insert a feeding tube into his stomach.

In June 2019, Snow, now 39, was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. At the time of his diagnosis, Snow was given a year to live.

Since then Snow has continued in his role with the Flames, despite gradually losing some muscle function.

“All indications are that it went really well,” said Flames general manager Brad Treliving in an interview with TSN on Monday following the surgery. “The good news is that the procedure is done, he’s come through it well, and he’s in great spirits, so all things are looking good right now.”

Treliving visited Snow this weekend at his Calgary home before Snow left for the hospital. After the surgery, Treliving exchanged texts with Snow’s wife, Kelsie, and one of his surgeons.

“They said that he came through this as good or better as anyone they’ve ever seen,” Treliving said.

Snow was hired by the Flames in 2011 as the club’s director of hockey analysis following a four-year stint with the Minnesota Wild as their director of hockey operations. Before his hockey management career, Snow was a journalist who covered the NHL and MLB for the Boston Globe and Minneapolis Star Tribune.

In his nine seasons with the Flames, Snow has developed the Flames’ hockey research and development departments. In September of 2019, he was named the club’s assistant general manager.

“He touches every part of our hockey department,” Treliving said. “He’s extremely smart in not only the information he produces, but more importantly how he communicates that to not only myself but the rest of our staff.”

According to Kelsie, the reason he had the surgery on Monday is because this summer he developed troubles with swallowing his food, a common symptom of ALS.

“Chris’ swallowing started changing in August, and last week, just three short months later, I stood in a room with a speech language pathologist and an X-ray technician, watching Chris swallow different consistencies of food and drink mixed with barium so they could see what was going wrong,” she wrote at the time.

On its website, the ALS Society of Canada says that people living with the disease gradually find it difficult to “move, swallow, speak and eventually breathe.” In Canada, between 2,500 and 3,500 adults currently live with the disease, which is most commonly diagnosed in middle and late adulthood. Eighty per cent of people with ALS die within two to five years and just 10 per cent may live 10 years or longer of the diagnosis.

Familial ALS, which makes up only about 10 per cent of cases, runs in Show’s family. He has lost his father, two uncles, and a cousin to the disease.

Snow has participated in various medical treatments and studies in his fight against ALS. He visited the Sunnybrook Brain Sciences Centre in Toronto 13 times over a nine-month period to participate in a clinical trial, travels to the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine yearly, and is involved in a gene therapy study at the University of Calgary .

The Snows have two young children, Cohen and Willa, and Kelsie has chronicled the family’s journey on her website. She frequently writes about how their kids have processed Chris’ diagnosis and the ways in which they have all had to adapt their lives.

The Flames have also spearheaded efforts to raise funding and awareness about the disease. This June for ALS Awareness Month, the club launched the #TrickShot4Snowy campaign. As of Nov. 4, it has raised more than $200,000.

Snow is expected to be discharged from the hospital in the next couple of days. Treliving is optimistic about his recovery, noting the strength he’s shown to get to this point while fighting ALS.

“We know he’s fighting this with everything he’s got and he’s going to prevail,” he said. “What keeps us moving forward is following his lead.”

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