Micheletti became a grinder to beat cancer
By Dan O'Neill
Of the Post-Dispatch
As a former NHL defenseman, most prominently with the Blues, Joe
Micheletti has taken his share of hits. And as a hockey analyst, most
prominently with the New York Islanders, Micheletti has had plenty to
say over the years.
But the blow Micheletti took last August was by far the biggest hit
he has taken, and statement he will make on Sunday at Forest Park is
the most compelling of his life.
Micheletti will tee off at 8 a.m. Sunday on behalf of the Gerald L.
Andriole Prostrate Cancer Marathon Golf Tournament at Forest Park.
The vehicle is golf, fun and games, but the purpose is serious.
Micheletti will "play 'til he drops" to raise money for prostrate
cancer research at the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish
Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.
Sponsors will match every hole Micheletti and the others play with a
donation to the cause. You can still make a pledge, stop by to
support, or call 314-362-8212 to offer a donation.
Events have made Micheletti acutely aware and supportive of Dr.
Andriole's work and put him on that tee box. Last September,
Micheletti was getting ready to call the semifinals of the World Cup
championships for ESPN, and preparing for an NHL season that was
tentatively still in the works.
He went for a physical checkup, something he does annually. As he
approached his 50th birthday in October, he was in superb physical
shape - an important fact to remember.
"I was close to being my playing weight, about five pounds off,"
Micheletti said. "I had been working out all summer, lifting weights.
I was in the best shape I have been in a long time, really felt
Micheletti also was in a hurry. He had missed his actual appointment,
mistaking the date, and showing up a day later. And he was ticketed
to leave for the World Cup the next day. His doctor accommodated him,
putting him through a thorough examination. Everything looked fine
until something unusual was detected in the prostrate test. The
doctor suggested Micheletti see a urologist and have a sonogram. "I
said, 'Let's do it right away because I'm leaving in the morning,'"
Under the circumstances, sooner was especially better. The test
showed Micheletti had testicular cancer.
The results caught him with his head down, sent him flying like a Bob
Plager hip check. It made no sense. Testicular cancer is the most
common cancer in white males aged 20 to 34. It is far less likely to
develop in a 50-year-old.
Micheletti couldn't help but think of Sean Kimerling, a handsome,
athletic-looking sportscaster for WPIX-TV in New York. At a routine
checkup in the summer of 2003, Kimerling was diagnosed with
testicular cancer. He died a few months later at age 37.
Over the next few days, Micheletti spent a lot of time on the
Internet, researching the topic, getting as many answers as
possible. "Once I read about it, studied it, I thought to
myself, 'I'll beat this,'" he recalled. "My biggest concern was
friends and family. I wasn't sure, logistically, how I was going to
The family was spread a little thin. Joe had just driven his son,
Adam, back to college in Boston. His wife, Kathy, and daughter,
Allison, were in St. Louis. The family moved back to town last summer
after living awhile in New York. Allison is a junior at St. Joe's
Academy, a fine athlete in her own right, in golf and basketball. "We
knew a long time ago that this was home," said Micheletti, who was a
Blues assistant coach for three seasons in the late 1980s.
As he figured things out in New York, Micheletti stayed mum. He
worked the World Cup semifinals, but informed ESPN that he would be
unable to do the championship game, assuring his boss that he would
He then came "home" to tell his wife and daughter, and eventually his
son. He picked up Allison after a golf match, pulled the car off to
the side of the road and, gently as possible, broke the news. "You
know, 17-year-old girls are emotional enough as it is," he
said. "They have a lot going on at that stage of their life. It was
But the point of this story is not to smother Micheletti in sympathy,
or pull heartstrings for his family. The upshot is upbeat, the point
Micheletti was fortunate. His cancer was in Stage 1, whereas, for
instance, Lance Armstrong's testicular cancer was in Stage 3. But
Micheletti made his own break, because he made a point of getting a
thorough checkup each year.
"That's so important," Micheletti said. "If you're going to get a
checkup, and you certainly should, have it be as thorough as it can
be. Had my doctor not been so thorough, they would not have detected
this until it was much farther along."
Your false sense of immunity from these life-threatening ailments
should be shattered by now. Micheletti was in fantastic shape and
less than one year removed from his last thorough checkup. That's how
quickly the threat develops, how fast opponents like testicular or
prostrate cancer can join the rush.
Yet, Micheletti will be at Forest Park on Sunday, playing more golf
than you and I would care to attempt. He took on the cancer, dropped
the gloves and danced. He went through 15 sessions of radiation in
less than a month, did everything necessary and scored a clean
knockout. There's no guarantees. He will have to be checked every
three months for several years, but the prognosis is excellent. The
NHL should hope to bounce back so strongly.
And we should all hope to be so attentive to our health, as aware of
living as we are of dying. Stop by Forest Park, say hello to No. 12,
make a pledge if you're so inclined. But if nothing else, make a
commitment to yourself.