By Nick Barnowski –
Most of the time, the only numbers that matter for a hockey game are the ones on the scoreboard. For the U16 Spartans, a girls travel hockey team based out of East Lansing, there was only one number that mattered on Oct. 27: $1,500.
That’s how much money the team, in collaboration with the U16 Livonia Knights, raised for breast cancer awareness. The money from the first annual “Pink at the Rink” game will be split between the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation and the local American Cancer Society.
In addition to the fundraiser, the two teams also took to the ice at Suburban East Lansing, where the Spartans defeated the Knights 5-2.
“The Spartan family wanted to make an awareness statement during the month of October with the National Breast Cancer Awareness campaign,” team manager Jennifer Forrest said. “[The team did this] because some of the Spartan family knew some special people that have gone through breast cancer treatment of some sort.”
In the weeks leading up to the game, the players on the Spartans sported shirts that said “Pink at the Rink” to practice every week. They also joined together with Elevation Hockey – a hockey training company based out Suburban Ice East Lansing – whose members wore the pink shirts during team workouts.
Before the game, the team set up multiple tables throughout the rink, where they took donations, sold baked goods, and handed out pink cowbells and “Pink at the Rink” bracelets.
“It was a very rewarding experience as we met local hockey moms that were also survivors and/or currently in treatment, and they shared with us their stories,” Forrest said. “The moments were very heartwarming for everyone.”
For Kevin Miller, a former Michigan State hockey player and current U16 Spartans coach, the fundraiser showed the girls what it was like to participate in something impactful off the ice.
“I’m sure they realize even more how important and how many lives breast cancer touches,” he said. “It is always nice to play a game with an extra cause and the breast cancer cause for a girl’s hockey game is even more special.”
The Spartans donned custom-made pink jerseys for the game with the name “Didi,” an aunt of one of the team’s players, on the back to honor and celebrate her 10 years of being cancer-free. The Knights also wore custom black and pink jerseys for the occasion as well.
“It was great to see all the teams and the community join in,” Miller said. “Again, everyone knows how important the cause is and were willing to pitch in.
Despite this being the first year the team has hosted the breast cancer campaign, Forrest says that as long as the Spartans are around, they will continue to fight for the cause.
“It’s great for the girls to learn early that courage, strength, and passion can come not just from hockey.”