Who Fights Cancer In a Lockout? (II)

Brad Lukowich Credit Greg Thompson.jpg

Minor League Fundraising

Fortunately, North America's minor pro leagues aren't experiencing a work stoppage. Minor league promotional campaigns may lack the clout of the NHL but they are almost universally superior to anything done at the major league level. Additionally, minor pro teams can't rely on the unquantifiable impact of player recognition in the community to bolster their fundraising prowess.

We take it as gospel that Alex Ovechkin's visit to a children's hospital is a life-altering and even perhaps life-saving experience for those patients, but in fact no evidence exists to support this. It may brighten the day of many patients, but beyond the occasional anecdote, it saves the lives of no one.

And we shouldn't expect it to. If an NHL superstar like Claude Giroux could walk into Children's Hospital in Philadelphia and by laying a few hands cure deadly childhood diseases I think Giroux might find himself in greater demand than any person in human history.

Additionally, almost all minor pro teams are in constant battle with their bottom line. They know that it isn't enough to dress two hockey teams and expect fans to swarm the arena in droves, so they have to get clever.

Recent examples of creative minor league hockey promotions include:

  • Charlie Sheen Night: a clean drug test got you free admission to see the ECHL's Bakersfield Condors.
  • Ink In The Rink: a tattoo got your ticket price reduced by $2 to see the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals (the ECHL's Wranglers are holding "Regrettable Tattoo Night" in March of 2013). The Admirals also did a Cancer Survivor's Night and a clever "2-Man Advantage" promo in which fans got discounted tickets to an Admirals game and a Brewers game.
  • Rod Blagojevich Prison Uniform Night: The ECHL's Las Vegas Wranglers hosted those same Condors for a game in which both teams wore different prison uniforms and the refs, fittingly, wore the uni's of prison guards.

The AHL contributes mightily to charity

According to American Hockey League Vice President of Communications Jason Chaimovitch, the AHL does not have any formal associations with any specific charitable organizations, but that didn't stop its 30 member teams from raising over $3 million last season, and a total of about $27 million in the past 11 years for a laundry list of charities.

Additionally, in 2011-12:

  • AHL players and coaches made over 1,600 community appearances
  • AHL mascots made over 3,300 community appearances
  • Teams donated 150,000 free tickets
  • Teddy bear tosses and Blue Santa programs brought in who knows how many gifts for low-income kids in the community.

Virtually every AHL and ECHL team hosts either a breast cancer awareness or prostate cancer / men's health promotion to raise money for and awareness of these diseases. The home team wears commemorative jerseys that they later auction off to fans who inevitably overpay for them in the name of charity.

In 2012-2013 the AHL's cancer-related promotional nights include the following (this is an incomplete list as some teams do not have their promotional schedules available yet):

  • Charlotte Checkers: 9 February 2013, Pink in the Rink vs San Antonio.
  • Chicago Wolves: 27 October 2012, Breast Cancer Awareness Night vs San Antonio.
  • Grand Rapids Griffins: 24 February 2013, Purple Community Game Honoring Cancer Survivors vs San Antonio.
  • Hershey Bears: 25 November 2012, Breast Cancer Awareness Night vs Toronto.
  • Lake Erie Monsters: 2 March 2013, Hockey Fights Breast Cancer vs Hamilton Bulldogs.
  • Manchester Monarchs: 9 February 2013, Pink in the Rink vs Providence.
  • Oklahoma City Barons: 19 October 2012, Cancer Survivors Night vs San Antonio.
  • Rockford Ice Hogs: 19 January 2013, Pink in the Rink vs Grand Rapids.
  • Texas Stars: 12/13 January 2012, Pink in the Rink vs. Houston & vs San Antonio.
  • Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins: 5 January 2013, Pink in the Rink vs. Worcester & 2 February 2013, Leukemia/Lymphoma Night vs. Adirondack.
  • Worcester Sharks: 2 February 2013, Pink in the Rink vs. Providence.

During 2010-2011, ECHL teams collectively raised over $2.6 million for charity, a total that includes almost $200,000 going towards cancer awareness and prevention. In fact, the ECHL has contributed over $2 million towards cancer over the last six years. The following is a partial list of cancer-related promotions in the coming ECHL season:

Fighting Cancer in a Lockout

So the answer to the question of whether hockey fights cancer during a lockout is yes--just not elite hockey. In the minor leagues, it's business as usual. Life goes on.

The NHL Player's Association recently released a video featuring a handful of players lamenting the lockout. At one point Jonathan Toews refers to those players who, as a result of the 2004-05 lockout and losing a season, never played another NHL game. What a bizarre population to pity. One might fairly infer from the comment that the NHL is a great place to play hockey. Otherwise, the contrary is true, and Toews should be envious of those players for having the good fortune never to have to play another wretched NHL game in their lives.

I began this article asserting that cancer has touched all of our lives and this is true of NHL players and owners. This labor dispute shouldn't be solved simply to save Hockey Fights Cancer. Nor will a continued lockout indirectly lead to cancer deaths.

The picture at the beginning of this article shows what happened to the Norfolk Admirals in 2008 when, for Pink in the Rink, they dyed the ice and got what looks like a rink stained with blood. If money could have quickly reversed the effect I have little doubt that Norfolk officials would have done whatever they could have done to reduce the disaster.

Alas, money can't buy everything.

Unless you don't have much. In which case it's ridiculous to see an important fundraiser driven by people who have plenty that directly benefits people who don't have much get lost in the petty squabbles over terms that until recently hardly existed in popular culture, like hockey-related revenue.

Owners, stand firm. Players, disperse into other leagues. You have already stained the rink. The longer this goes on, the less you matter to people with real problems.

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