There is snow on the ground. There is leftover turkey is in the fridge. Mustaches are everywhere. That can only mean November hockey is in full effect. Turn on any NHL game and you will see your favorites sporting all purple sweaters in their pregame warm-ups to promote “Hockey Fights Cancer” month. All month long hockey teams everywhere have held various games and events to help support the fight against cancer. Junior hockey and the USHL are no different.
On Friday night, JuniorHockey.com was invited to participate in a unique event. The Chicago Steel (9-7-1-0) hosted their in-state rivals, the Central Illinois Flying Aces (11-8-2-0). It was game two (of three matchups) between the foes slated for the week. Sitting fourth in the Eastern Conference, Chicago took game one over second place Central Illinois last Saturday. Friday, the Flying Aces would certainly want a bit of revenge. However, none of this was what made this particular game special.
The game was what the Chicago Steel tabbed as: “Crazy Hat Night”. No, it was not necessarily the fans that wore “crazy”, artistically designed head-wear, rather it was the players. For the first time ever in junior and/or professional hockey history, players (other than the goalies) skated with custom painted helmets. The game was sponsored by the School of Art in Geneva , IL. Amateur artists of various ages and skill sets (including local children and elementary schools) created unique helmet designs worn by the players.
“I’ve been fortunate to have been a part of many innovative sports promotions, but I’ve never been a part of something like this that combines art and sport to raise money for charity in such a grassroots way. We believe this to be a first in hockey history, but it’s being able to contribute to a great cause that has excited our players and staff.” - Steel President, Dan Lehv
As colorful and interesting as the helmet designs were, the most important aspect to their creation was their purpose. Throughout the game, members of the boisterous crowd were given the opportunity to bid on the players’ helmets in a silent auction. The proceeds of which went to the Alyssa Alvin Foundation for Hope.
The Alyssa Alvin Foundation was created in memory of Alyssa Alvin, a young, local, creative and artistic girl who passed away from acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Bravely fighting for four years, Alyssa embraced her love for the arts. Art brought Alyssa joy in her darkest journey. The foundation was created to help those fighting their own cancer battles enjoy the arts and inspire hope.
On the ice, the Steel found themselves in a dogfight after the first two periods left the score knotted at three goals apiece. Nearly halfway through the third, Harvard commit: Ryan Doolin pulled a puck out of heavy net-front traffic and past the Aces’ Ryan Snowden for the go-ahead-goal. Doolin’s captain, Matteo Pietroniro doubled the Steel’s lead 4:10 later. However, the Aces were not finished. A Cal Kiefiuk goal with 27 seconds left in the game would keep the intensity pumping right up to the final horn. The Chicago Steel would take home their second victory of the week against the Aces with a 5-4 win.
In reference to his go-ahead-goal, Doolin told JuniorHockey.com, “I thought it was pretty good goal. It was a good shoot from the point and I just tapped in, in-front of the net.” When asked about the painted helmets and the evening’s special event Ryan said, “It was a really good event for a really good cause!”
After the game, Chicago Steel Head Coach Greg Moore told JuniorHockey.com, “I am really proud of our team’s ability to keep digging -to keep coming back. Our consistency has come a long way in the last month and a half. I am proud of how they finished the game.” Knowing that his team will have to face the Flying Aces again for the third time (this week) on Saturday, Moore insisted, “We have to keep doing the same. It’s important that we have our energy in the right spot. It’s important that our mindset and focus is in the right spot. They (the team) have to take ownership of every shift on the ice. They have been executing our concepts and systems pretty well. They have to continue having the right mindset and the right energy attacking the game.” Like Doolin, Moore also appreciated the evening’s special event. He told JuniorHockey.com, “I loved it! It was great! I never in my life have ever seen hockey players with custom painted helmets. I always thought it would be cool if the players got to do that because the goalies get to paint their helmets. It was for a really good cause and the players enjoyed it. It was cool to see.”
Off the ice, the Steel successfully auctioned off all 26 of the custom designed helmets. The auction was enough to raise more than $3000 for the Alyssa Alvin Foundation for Hope. This certainly will not be the last time an event like this occurs. Congratulations and thank you to all of those who helped make this important occasion such a success.
To those inside the game, the game of ice hockey is far more than just a game, we’re a family. When one of us faces difficult times we pull together. We pull together for each other and we pull together for those we can help. That’s a win for everyone.
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