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From the blue line: Prince George official’s off-ice career an essential service during COVID-19

Anthony Maletta is a radiation therapist at BC Cancer Centre for the North
Anthony Maletta - hockey official-radiation therapist
Anthony Maletta is a Prince George hockey official and a radiation therapist at BC Cancer Centre for the North. (via Chuck Chin Photography/Submitted/Kyle Balzer)

Not only does Anthony Maletta provide a service to Prince George’s hockey community during a normal season, he also plays a key role to local residents affected by cancer.

The 29-year-old is a radiation therapist, coming up on four years working at the BC Cancer Centre for the North, and is one of the many essential service workers amongst the COVID-19 pandemic.

He explains he’s been able to treat up to 35 cancer patients a week during these unprecedented times with proper distancing measures in place.

“If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you’re going to need life-preserving cancer care. It can’t stop,” Maletta said in an interview with PrinceGeorgeMatters.

“We’re really appreciative of everyone in the community. Everyone is doing a good job and from what I can see, Dr. Henry has said that B.C. has done really well and hopefully that just continues and we can move through this difficult time.”

After graduating D.P. Todd in 2008, it took Maletta nine years of post-secondary schooling to find his medical miche.

“I didn’t really know what we were doing, but I liked it,” he chuckled after explaining his introduction to radiation therapy.

The Prince George product eventually earned his certification from BCIT in 2016 after a science-degree stint at UNBC and one year at the College of New Caledonia (CNC).

While he admits the job can be a bit of an emotional roller-coaster, Maletta says it’s rewarding to build friendships with patients in helping them get through difficult times.

“You’re seeing somebody for a four-to-six week period Monday to Friday, and so, you really build a connection with them. I mean, here they are getting life-saving treatment and, you know, you definitely build a unique connection with somebody, whereas you’re doing a different profession in healthcare, you may only see them once and that’s it, but with what I do, you see them every single day. So definitely patient-care is what really motivates me everyday and what I kind of fell in love with this position.”

Getting through all that education also came with opportunities to stay involved with local hockey, getting into officiating near the end of high school.

Maletta can be seen in the zebra stripes in Prince George Cougars’ and Spruce Kings’ games, among others, either as a linesmen or a referee.

He’s privileged to be involved in the game he loves in his hometown, even with the intense pressure that came from doing well in school at the same time.

“With reffing, you can kind of choose which games you want to do,” he said. 

“So if my schooling schedule got busy, I had to take a week off from reffing. Nowadays, I’m kind of more lucky. My job [at the Centre for the North] is a Monday-to-Friday job, so I have responsibility for the weekend and even my evenings are free, and that’s another thing I’m lucky with being able to do what I do.”

When amateur hockey in B.C. got cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hit also took a toll on officials in earning that extra income.

Now, with professional leagues looking to make a comeback, Maletta believes it can work, but we can’t take our foot off the gas pedal in trying to flatten the curve.

“If they end up having no fans in the arenas, that would definitely be something that would be interesting to see, but from a medical perspective, obviously, you just want to make sure everything is safe and that there’s isn’t going to be a second round of the COVID-19 disease. We need to make sure everything stays and that everyone is following the recommendations by Dr. Bonnie Henry and the Health Minister [Adrian Dix]. It’s a unique situation, for sure.”

So while it may be a ‘skeleton crew’ at the BC Cancer Centre for the North, Maletta is grateful to still be among his colleagues in providing treatment to some of Prince George’s most vulnerable.

He encourages anybody struggling mentally and emotionally with the pandemic to call or video-chat with family.

“I think that’s the thing for everybody; being able to talk to somebody is very important.”

As of this publication, there are 49 positive COVID-19 cases in northern B.C.