Annual Pink in the Rink fundraiser melds great hockey with a great cause
By Greg Bates, Special to AHAI
Nicole LaMantia has played in four Pink In The Rink cancer awareness fundraisers. Her fifth will be the most impactful for the teenager.
As the captain of the Chicago Mission Under-19 girls hockey team, LaMantia is the chairperson for the 10th annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, with all money going directly to help fight the disease. LaMantia is striving to make this year’s event the best yet.
There will be silent auctions, raffles and four Mission teams — U12, U14, U16 and U19 — facing off against their rivals on the ice. The fundraiser will be held at the new MB Ice Arena, practice facility of the Chicago Blackhawks, on Saturday, Jan. 20.
“I think it’s a huge event for us just to take time as athletes to give back to the community and do something that’s bigger than ourselves,” LaMantia said. “Obviously, people with cancer and families have been affected and it’s a great time for us to give back to people and just help them in any way that we can.”
Last year, the fundraiser brought in $23,200. According to Leah Huizinga, who is the Mission’s director of fundraising, the event has racked up $270,000 in the first nine years. This year’s goal is to break the $300,000 mark.
“It’s grown every single year since we’ve started it,” said Mission girls hockey director Tony Cachey. “It started as a small, little event and turned into a pretty significant event. … We have good partners that help us and a lot of committed people that make it happen.”
Organizers believe having the event at the Blackhawks’ new facility should help attract more people.
“It’s surreal how nice of a facility it is,” LaMantia said. “Just to be around a facility where you know, like, growing up the Blackhawks were the best thing and it’s so cool to be around the facility where they’re around every day. It’s so nice, it’s crazy.”
Pink In The Rink will have its first game of the day at 11:50 a.m. when the Mission U12 team, which is ranked No. 6 in the country by myhockeyrankings.com, takes on Team Illinois. The U14 game will follow at 1:20 p.m. with the No. 4-ranked Mission U14 squaring off against No. 6 Chicago Young Americans. The Mission U16 team, which is ranked No. 1, will play No. 5 Shattuck-St. Mary’s School at 3 p.m. The nightcap will feature a top-10 battle at U19 with the Mission battling Shattuck-St. Mary’s at 4:40 p.m.
Both the U16 and U19 games will match up two of the country’s elite girls’ hockey programs, as Shattuck-St. Mary’s is the alma mater of Amanda Kessel, Brianna Decker and many others.
“I’m looking forward to playing against Shattuck,” LaMantia said. “I think that’s a big deal for people that especially come that don’t really know anything about the Mission. But Shattuck is ranked No. 1 in the country right now and we’re No. 9, and we recently played them and beat them.”
The two U19 teams have played twice this season and have split the games.
“With the older age groups, we like to bring in Shattuck, who is a friendly rival of ours,” Cachey said. “They’ve always supported the event — we thank them for that. It provides us an awesome opportunity to put two really good teams on the ice and showcase girls’ hockey as well as raise money for cancer.”
Throughout the day, silent auction items — ranging from Blackhawks memorabilia to contributions from local businesses — will be available to bid on. Attendees, who are asked to pay a $5 admission, are able to purchase luminary bags and write a name or names of those who have been affected by cancer. During the second intermission of the U19 game, there will be a luminaria ceremony where the bags will be placed on the ice in the design of a breast cancer ribbon, the rink lights will be turned off, the names will be read aloud and a moment of silence will ensue.
After the U19 game, specially-made jerseys worn by the Mission players just for the Pink In The Rink event will be up for bid in the silent auction. There will also be event T-shirts and hats available for sale.
With great hockey offered throughout the day and plenty of activities, players and organizers don’t want to lose sight of the main goal of the event: to raise money and awareness for cancer.
“I think it’s really important for people to understand, especially getting the younger girls into it,” LaMantia said. “It’s a great time for them to really just follow in the older girls’ footsteps and really give back to people.”
“It is a great opportunity to teach kids a life lesson that giving back is important,” Huizinga said. “It also gets them out of just the hockey world and add something to their resume as they start applying for colleges. A big portion of what Chicago Mission tries to do is reach these kids’ goals of going on and playing D-I hockey or D-III hockey and beyond.”
Cachey has been a part of all 10 Pink In The Rink events and knows the impact it has for the American Cancer Society as well as his players.
“The goal for us is to raise money for cancer, along with that give our older players a chance to run something that they get a sense of giving back and organize and plan it and have to decide how they want to do it. It gives them ownership,” Cachey said. “The real benefit to them is their understanding that there’s bigger stuff out there than hockey.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.