SPORTS HERO: Brian Tardiff faces off against his toughest opponent

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CORNWALL, Ontario - The irony of Brian Tardiff's situation can hardly be ignored.

The love affair the Cornwall man has had with all things sports - which led him to help create and foster girls minor hockey and baseball/softball leagues in the city, among others - received word late last year that he is one of thousands of Canadians now battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

There was a time when Tardiff could fire a softball from third base to first with lightning speed and accuracy. The same could be said of his proficiency on the ice.

In fact, if you played men's fastball in Cornwall, had a daughter who played minor hockey or perhaps played yourself, you can thank Tardiff.

The irony that a man who loves physical activity is now slowly losing that ability isn't lost on Tardiff.

"That hits the nail right on the head," he said.

But like any family, whether it be connected through blood or ice, Tardiff's network is rallying around him – ALS be damned.

"The great thing about Brian is that you never get a half-measure," said Rod McLeod, a longtime friend of Tardiff who is part of a group organizing 'Brian's Day', a March 8 event that will be hosted at the Benson Centre by the Cornwall Girls Hockey Association. "He always gives 100 per cent.

"But a lot of it is behind the scenes. He'd rather see other people get the kudos for it."

If you travel, and happen to bump into people connected with Ottawa district hockey, and even the Ontario Women's Hockey Association, you can bet they know exactly who Brian Tardiff is, and what he has meant to the sport.

His commitment to local sports can be measured in decades. Men's softball (45 years) and girls minor hockey.softball (25-plus years) top the list.

Tardiff's time in local sports means you probably see his face at local venues about as often as the zamboni driver.

"There's a reason why we're having the event at the Benson Centre," said Tardiff's brother-in-law Geoff Smith. "It's just like Brian's home."

Tardiff was diagnosed with ALS late last year, after months of trying to determine what exactly he was facing. He said in an interview that last May when he couldn't tie a knot on his running shoe he knew there was a problem, but it took months before a diagnosis was made.

The road ahead will not be an easy one. ALS is fatal, with patients becoming progressively paralyzed, eventually unable to breathe or swallow. Most pass away in as little as five years.

"It's really thrown us for a loop," said the mild-mannered Tardiff, who would rather be coaching children and smacking baseballs than sitting in a waiting room or making doctor's appointments.

And while Tardiff's sporting family is rallying around him, his employers at the Ontario Hockey Academy have been incredibly supportive too, he said.

Brian's Day includes a whole host of activities, which can be found here. Some of the highlights include a visit from two-time Olympic gold medalist and Cornwall native Lori Dupuis, a silent auction, live music and hockey, hockey, hockey.

All the proceeds from the event will go towards Tardiff and his family to help in his personal journey with ALS.

Geographic location: CORNWALL, Ontario

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