DALLAS, TX -- As 2018 comes to a close, not only has it been a banner year for the North American Hockey League and its member teams on the ice and in the NCAA commitment department, but teams continue to set new standards for community involvement and giving back to their local charities.
As the old saying goes, ‘Tis better to give than receive,’ and in 2018 NAHL teams their players gave back in record numbers of time spent doing good in their communities and monetary donations.
In total, NAHL teams donated more than 1.1 million dollars to charities in 2018, with 500+ players collectively spending over 20,000 hours of service in their communities across the United States.
The record amount of involvement and donations by NAHL teams in 2018 was bolstered by the NAHL’s involvement and commitment to the Declaration of Principles.
Launched in late 2017 and spearheaded by the National Hockey League (NHL), the Declaration of Principles is the foundational element of a new initiative supported by 17 hockey organizations around the world, including the NAHL. These hockey organizations pledged to celebrate and advance policies, programs and initiatives of their respective organizations – and to inspire their fans, participants and communities – to create the best possible family hockey experience.
“The NAHL, its teams, and our communities are the perfect example of what makes hockey great and how we continue to grow the game for the benefit of everyone involved,” said NAHL Commissioner and President Mark Frankenfeld. “Our teams went above and beyond in 2018 and were a big part of their local communities. We have 24 unique and diverse communities and each is benefitting from having an NAHL team in their area, as they enhance and deliver a positive family experience, on and off the ice.”
Perhaps the best and most gratifying aspect of the record totals of involvement and donations in 2018 is that every NAHL team has it’s own story to tell and its own unique ways of giving back to their communities.
“Our commitment to the communities in which we live, work and play will continue to grow and we hope the involvement by all of our teams in 2018 demonstrates the appreciation our players and organizations have for our great cities and fans,” said Johnstown Tomahawks Team President Rick Bouchard, who is also a member of the NAHL’s Executive Committee.
Below are just some of the small snippet of highlights that some NAHL teams did throughout the 2018 calendar year.
Giving back to the Aberdeen community is important to the players and staff of the Aberdeen Wings. Each year the Wings team up with various sponsors, schools, hospitals and other charitable causes to help give back. They donated over 2,500 stuffed animals to the Shriners Hospital for Children in the Twin Cities and raised over $10,000 for former Wings Player Zach Kraft as he battled a rare form of brain cancer. The Wings had team appearances at the School for the Blind, Aspire, the YMCA, helping victims of domestic abuse, waiting tables for the community theater, and spreading awareness by participating in the Out of Darkness Suicide Prevention 5k. During 2018, the Wings were one of the best in the NAHL in terms or dollars raised ($40,000+) and man hours spent (1,200+) for their community, and over the past nine seasons have raised $272,442 for charitable causes. Forward Jon Bendorf was honored as the recipient of the NAHL’s Community Service Award in 2017-18. One of the appearances the players do each season, is to the non-profit Aspire, an organization supports people with disabilities of all types.
The Bulls have dozens of community initiatives. Some of their annual highlights include their Military Appreciation Night, where tickets are donated to all service members. Their holiday visits to local area hospitals continue to set the standard as they visit the BSA Hospital and then later to the Children’s Hospital of Northwest Texas Healthcare System where they sang Christmas Carols, handed out treats to the patients, as well as hockey tickets to the staff. “Making our visit to the hospitals each year like we do is the highlight of the Christmas Season for us,” said Bulls Vice President-General Manager Rick Matchett. “We enjoy meeting and talking with the kids, families and staff. Seeing them smile and laugh is what we truly enjoy!”
The Austin Bruins Foundation raises tens of thousands of dollars for organizations such as defending the Blue Line, the Hormel Institute, and Pacelli Catholic Schools. The Bruins Paint the Rink Pink night, conceived by Bruins owner Craig Patrick in 2010, was the original event that has grown into an annual city-wide initiative. The Bruins have raised a total of $242,089 for the Hormel Institute in eight seasons. Beyond a special jersey auction, other means of fundraising included the sale of Paint the Rink Pink t-shirts, chuck-a-puck, a 50-50 raffle, and “I Fight cards,” allowing fans to commemorate loved ones who have battled or are currently battling cancer. The cards hang in the Riverside Arena lobby through February. In addition, the Bruins host a Healthy Habits game where they team up with McDonalds, Potach, and Mitchell Dental Clinic to reward youth who make healthy choices.
This year marks the 10th anniversary that the Bobcats will team up with Basin Electric and Brave the Shave to raise money to fight childhood cancer. Over the years, over 60 Bobcat players, coaches and staff members—including Head Coach Layne Sedevie—have gotten their heads shaved to raise money for the growing national charity. A long-time staple of the team’s Brave the Shave Night includes special-edition green and blue jerseys that are auctioned off following the contest. The team has raised over $50,000 from the jerseys to benefit the foundation. The Bobcats have partnered up with Mandan-based Dreams in Motion, an organization whose goal is to provide recreational and sporting opportunities for youth and young adults, from ages 2 to 25, with mobility challenges or visual impairments and their families and friends—to host weekly sled hockey events at the VFW Sports Center.
Despite being a new team in a new area, the Steel have made it a point give back to the fans of Chippewa Valley community. Through the Boys and Girls Club, skating with youth players, and Salvation Army bell ringing the Steel are making a difference in the Chippewa Valley community. Every week Steel players go to the Boys and Girls Club to hang out with kids, play games, and be a leader and mentor for the kids. “It’s really fun because we get to interact with the kids, which makes it really fun for us,” said Steel forward Connor Szmul. During this holiday season, Steel players were ringing bells for the Salvation Army. Throughout the month of December, the players have been participating in the iconic Salvation Army Bell Ringing at Gordy’s Market in Chippewa Falls. Jacob Dirks said, “It feels good to give back to the community that supports us throughout this whole season and integrating the community with the new franchise.”
Corpus Christi Ice Rays
The IceRays hosted their 11th annual Stars and Stripes Night in November. The IceRays staff and players have been delivered ticket vouchers to first responders, law enforcement officials and military members around the area. All members of the military–both past and present–received free entry to the game. “Stars and Stripes Night is definitely one of the highlights of every IceRays season,” said IceRays General Manager Michael Wood. “It’s our small way of saying thank you to all those who protect the citizens of the Coastal Bend as well as those who protect our great nation and the freedoms we hold dear.” The IceRays also donated over $11,000 to benefit the American Heart Association’s annual Coastal Bend Heart Walk. Thousands of individual walkers and local company and community teams will be taking steps to improve their heart health while raising funds and awareness for the American Heart Association in its fight against cardiovascular diseases.
Fairbanks Ice Dogs
One of the reasons the Fairbanks Ice Dogs were the NAHL’s Organization of the Year in 2017-18, was their contributions and involvement in their community. Every season, the players take time out to visit troops at Eielson AFB, learning about how the men and women of the United States Air Force work to defend our country. In October while on the road, the team teamed up with the Topeka Pilots to spend time at the Boys and Girls Club of Topeka. Players visited and ate dinner with members, with both players and club members having a great time in the process. Some of the club members reactions were that “this is the best day ever,” “this makes me feel really happy,” “these guys are pretty cool” and “can I please go through the high five line again?” This joy was also shared by Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart, who said his players enjoyed it just as much as the members. “Our players had an awesome time at the Boys & Girls Club of Topeka,” Stewart said. “It was an experience that they will remember, and more important, want to be a part of again in the future.”
Despite being new to the area, the Jamestown Rebels have already made their impact felt. This holiday season, the team set the largest donation amount for the Toys-For-Tots location in Jamestown, New York. The Rebels players, coaches and team staff members have already been out at several events this season, including church groups and schools.
The Jets are notorious for their community involvement and priority of being a part of the Janesville community. In 2018, the Jets raised thousands of dollars thanks to specialty jersey auction sales and their Movember campaign. One big initiative is their Salute to Service weekend. “The Jets are proud to have this opportunity to recognize those who have served, and give back to local veterans groups,” said Bill McCoshen, Jets President and NAHL Chairman of the Board. “As a community-focused organization, holding events like this is part of our mission. One of our roles is to help develop fine young men here in Janesville, and what better way to do that than honoring veterans and raising money for local efforts.” In August, six Jets players and two staffers took part in a fundraising effort for the YWCA of Rock County. The annual event raised money to help women and children affected by domestic violence. Walk a Mile in Her Shoes asks men to literally walk one mile in women’s high-heeled shoes as a means to raise funds and awareness within a community about the serious causes, effects, and remediations to men’s sexualized violence against women. It was the Jets’ fifth appearance and was the team’s largest group of walkers yet. The Jets and the American Cancer Society also partnered for the American Cancer Society Night. The night’s featured a 20-person ceremonial puck drop, performed entirely by cancer survivors, and an on-ice, post-game luminaria ceremony with Jets players.
The Tomahawks have become a staple of the Johnstown community through dozens of initiatives. “All of us in the organization understand the difference we can make to better the lives of others. The unwavering support of our fans and community has given the staff that manages the Johnstown Tomahawks Foundation and the Johnstown Tomahawks organization the ability to develop, contribute and fund local charitable organizations that aim to improve the lives of those in need in our surrounding areas,” said Team President Rick Bouchard. Some of those initiatives include Face-Off Against Cancer Night in partnership with Conemaugh Hospital Cancer Foundation. The night is dedicated to raising funds and awareness in addition to honoring the survivors and the memory of those afflicted by this disease. Another popular event is the Pucks and Paws Night. In partnership with the Humane Society of Cambria County, the Tomahawks created a unique promotional night that advocates for the adoption of animals, raise awareness and funds for a great cause.
Kenai River Brown Bears
During the holiday season, the Brown Bears teamed up with Feed My Starving Children, where they packed 38 boxes as a group that created roughly 8,208 meals. As a whole session, the team did 244 meals and 52,704 meals, which is enough to feed 144 kids for a year. The team also wore special pink jerseys that were auctioned off during a Breast Cancer Awareness Weekend, where they teamed up with Central Peninsula Hospital.
Lone Star Brahmas
The Brahmas had a big Teddy Bear Toss night where the stuffed animals are in good hands with their partners at the Community Enrichment Centre. Toys for Tots was also the recipient of 100 stuffed animals donated by the Brahmas fans. In November, the Brahmas host a Military Appreciation weekend where fans also brought toiletries, diapers, and non-perishable food items to help fill the net for the Community Enrichment Centre.
Maryland Black Bears
The NAHL’s newest team, the Maryland Black Bears, is hosting a Guns and Hoses Night, a hockey night dedicated to the Anne Arundel County Police and Fire Department. The trio will partner up to raise money for the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County, which benefits the Police Department’s Youth Activity Program and the Fire Department’s Community CPR Training. Players from the Maryland Heroes Hockey League, a league made up of local police officers and firefighters, will compete in a hockey shootout during the first intermission. During the second intermission, there will be a Police vs. Fire department mystery game that will be unveiled the week of Guns and Hoses night. “We look forward to saluting the Anne Arundel County Police and Firefighters during the game and raising money to support causes important to them that help our community,” said Maryland Black Bears President Robyn Remick. “This is our first big community fundraising effort and we’re excited to host 45 kids from the Anne Arundel Police Department’s Youth Activities Program who will be part of our “Ice Crew” and members of the Maryland Heroes League who will compete in a (hockey) shootout during intermission.”
With tens of thousands of dollars donated to charity each season, the Minnesota Magicians spend several weeks in the community. Their annual teddy bear toss has players delivering the animals to the Minnesota Children’s Hospital. The team also participated in the Movember campaign, raising awareness for Men’s Health by growing mustaches. The team also host a Cancer Awareness Night in honor of Tom Barendregt. Tom is battling leukemia for the second time, and is ready to beat cancer yet again.
The Wilderness are involved with local schools and their “Love to Read Month.” Throughout the year they have been visiting classrooms to help out and read at Washington Elementary, Churchill Elementary, Winterquist Elementary, South Terrace Elementary and New Horizon Christian Preschool. The team has decided to provide an incentive for students to read during the month of February by providing them a free ticket to a Wilderness game if they read five books on their own throughout the month. The Wilderness have been approached by schools in Hermantown and Esko to get involved during the month and have decided to read there in addition to the classrooms that they have already been visiting.
The Minot Minotauros embrace an opportunity to give back to the community supporting them especially when it encourages literacy and positive life choices for school children. The Minotauros’ players have enjoyed participating at local schools and will continue to do so. In addition to ongoing efforts, the organization has partnered with local businesses and sponsors to launch the “Building the Future” initiative, promoting not only reading but also physical activity outside of regular school hours. The program is designed to continue past individual accomplishments by offering rewards to whole classes for continuing on.
New Jersey Titans
The Titans staple in the community is their Kindness Team anti-bullying campaign at local schools. The Titans also host an annual Pucks & Paws Night. Fans donations go to the S.P.C.A. of Monmouth County. During the holidays, the Titans and Middletown Sports Complex do their part to support the local community. Their "Giving Tree" has cards on it for fans to choose from. The supported the Back Pack Crew this year with gift cards to local grocery stores. The Titans will be also be assisting with the set-up, serving and clean up at the St. Luke's Community Dinner every Tuesday evening.
The Jacks and the Odessa Shriners teamed up to help raise money for the Shriners Hospital locations in Galveston and Houston which includes a special jersey auction. All proceeds from the event were donated to the Odessa Shrine Club. In all, the Jacks and the Odessa Shriners were annually raise over $50,000 for the Shriners Hospitals.
In one of more unique and popular promotions of 2018, the Mudbugs and fans celebrated loved ones touched by cancer by painting their name(s) in ice. Fans made a $20 donation per 3'x6' frame with all proceeds go to the American Cancer Society. The Mudbugs also have a "Mudbugs Against Bullying" campaign. The campaign is designed to inform area youth about the dangers of bullying and how to prevent it. Mudbugs' players will visit local schools and provide a 20-30 minute discussion on anti-bullying. Each student in attendance will also receive a ticket voucher to an upcoming Mudbugs game.
Springfield Jr. Blues
The Springfield Jr. Blues are proud to announce the launch of our Classroom of the Game Program. It’s a fun and safe way for kids of all ages to enjoy hockey right here in Springfield, Illinois with their schoolmates. Each student in the class will receive a ticket to the game, as well as five tickets for adults to chaperone the students. The Jr. Blues also hosted a Teddy Bear Toss where fans chucked them on the ice after the Jr. Blues goal. All stuffed animals were donated to those in need at local charties. During Thanksgiving, the Jr. Blues passed out meals at the Central Baptist Church to those in the community who might not have had a Thanksgiving dinner otherwise.
The Pilots made two impactful gifts made from their foundation, Loretto, in the Topeka community, which included sizeable donations to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Topeka and the Ronald McDonald House of Topeka. During the Fall, the Pilots welcomed club members when they got off the bus, lining up on both sides to give high-fives as they walked through. Players also stayed for program time and had dinner with club members. Some of the team also went to the facility’s Teen Center and enjoyed some time with teenagers in the program. “The Pilots are honored to have the opportunity to work with the Boys & Girls Club of Topeka,” Pilots head coach Simon Watson said. “Our players embrace the chance to bring smiles to the faces of the youngsters in our community. We look forward to more events with the club.” The Reading with the Pilots program is big on education and reading is a huge part of that. We have a series called “Brady Brady” that is published by our national parent organization, USA Hockey. They each teach a different valuable lesson to children such as sharing, sportsmanship, or handling disappointment. Our players also have a list of some hockey “vocab” words they teach along the way, as well as asking questions to aid in comprehension after the story. To encourage further reading, we provide older grades with bookmarks that offer a free order of bread twists from Dominos if the student reads 5 books and their teacher signs off on the bookmark.
The Knights take a visit and coaching tips for floor hockey from Bear Creek Community Charter School’s students. They also continued their fight against Breast Cancer, helping Michele’s Ladies in Pink, a local non-profit, with basket donations and prep work for their annual fundraiser, and also pitched in to help at the local Ronald McDonald House.