Friday March 18th, 2011

The San Jose Sharks will auction autographed used sticks on March 23 and March 31, with proceeds going to aid victims of Japan's earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters. (Don Smith/Getty Images)

By Stu Hackel

The whole world has been alarmed at the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis in Japan. has posted a link on its site soliciting contributions to the American Red Cross, but at least one NHL team, the San Sharks, is going even further through The Sharks Foundation, the team's community outreach arm.

“The Sharks Foundation has quickly developed a plan that we hope will not only aid in the relief efforts of this event, but also increase awareness of a desperate need,” said its manager, Jeff Cafuir. “Though Japan is across the Pacific Ocean and thousands of miles away, the effects of the tragedy have been felt by many people in the Bay Area.”

The Foundation will not only be collecting monetary donations at the Sharks' home games on Mar. 23 against Calgary and on Mar. 31 against Dallas, it will also conduct an auction. Members of the Sharks will donate and autograph their used sticks, half of which will be auctioned on March 23 and the other half on March 31 in a silent process. Further details are available on the Sharks website. All money earned from direct donations and the auction will go directly to the Red Cross disaster relief efforts in Japan.

“If the passion and dedication involved with sports can be turned into support during a time of need, then we will be taking full advantage of our potential to help,” Cafuir said. “Time and time again, our fans have shown a willingness to donate to aid in disaster relief efforts and we hope this time is no exception."

A Minnesota pick-up hockey organizer is also jumping in to assist the Japanese people. Derek Dyka, who launched the unique on-line pickup game organization tool with Don Giroux over two years ago, is staging two days of pickup hockey this weekend in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina, and all the fees for ice time will be donated to relief efforts.

"I was particularly moved after a skate this week," Dyka said in a telephone interview. "We were at the bar after one of our games and I saw some video of the devastation in Japan and wondered what I could do to help. For one thing, my wife, who is Asian, and I have put our name in the hat to adopt a Japanese orphan or be foster parents. And then I thought if I could get a rink to donate the ice time and get 20 people out, that might work. We went to a rink we have a relationship with and they said, 'Sure.'"

The rink is Minnesota Made Ice Center in Edina and they're donating six hours of ice time to Dyka, three each this Saturday and Sunday. He's charging skaters $10 apiece and will turn over all proceeds to either the American or Japanese Red Cross, depending on what the Japanese Embassy suggests.

Players can sign up for these four games using a link on Dyka's Hockeyfinder website.

Dyka invented Hockeyfinder to aid pickup players in organizing and finding games, as well as the age-old problem of getting goalies for these games. "It makes things so much easier," Dyka says. "We used to send an e-mail to 100 guys and the first 20 who responded would get in the game. And then they'd pay when they get there."

Now it's all done through the website and skaters pay in advance.

Hockeyfinder is available to anyone who wants to organize a pickup game anywhere. A few Minnesota groups are using it, as well as one in Detroit, one in Wisconsin and another in Toronto. "I may have 10 buddies who want to play and want to get 10 more," Dyka says. "This can help fill the gap."

In the last year, Dyka has also started a beer league in the Twin Cities area organized through Hockeyfinder. He began with four teams and it has now grown to 24. A new four-team division in Chicago will launch in June using Hockeyfinder.

But nothing is more gratifying to Dyka than using Hockeyfinder to support relief efforts in Japan. He will also take donations from those who are not skating and kick the money into the proceeds. "I never thought when I started this that I'd be using it for something like this, but I'm glad I did," he said.

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