All season long, the East Coast Hockey League’s (ECHL) Toledo Walleye have contended for a playoff berth, often engaging in fierce, rough-and-tumble battles with their opponents.
But recently, the Walleye took to the ice at the Huntington Center to fight a different kind of battle.
Last weekend, the Detroit Red Wings’ affiliate hosted Pink in the Rink for the fifth consecutive year. The two-day event was dedicated to raising awareness and funds to fight breast cancer and featured a pair of games against the Kalamazoo Wings, which took place on pink ice
Creating the pink ice is “a huge math equation,” according to Walleye communications director Andi Roman-Tye. The ice first needs to be brought down to a thin layer and painted pink. Then another layer of water is flooded over it, frozen, and painted pink as well. The process continues until the ice is at the appropriate level necessary for gameplay.
“The ice needs to be pink, but yet not too dark where the players can’t see the puck,” Roman-Tye says.
The pink ice is only a part of the festivities surrounding the event. The Walleye wore pink jerseys, which were auctioned off after Saturday’s game. A portion of the ticket proceeds benefitted the Susan G. Komen of Northwest Ohio, an influential breast cancer organization.
Last year, the jersey auction alone raised more than $16,000, while an autographed pink hockey stick netted $700.
Pink in the Rink is historically among Toledo’s most well attended promotions. This year was no different. The 8,300 people who turned out for Saturday night’s game tied a Huntington Center attendance record.
Walleye coach Derek Lalonde called Pink in the Rink a “great cause.”
“We as an organization are very fortunate to be significant in our community,” he said. “It was sobering to see so many survivors in the crowd.”
Lalonde added that he was touched when players from both teams enthusiastically banged their sticks on the ice and benches to celebrate the survivors in the crowd who were invited to stand and be recognized.
“It’s something the whole team looks forward to,” left wing A.J. Jenks said. He contributed two goals in the Walleye’s 7–4 win Saturday. “It was great to see so many people supporting, fighting, and surviving.”
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