HUNTERSVILLE, NC – On Saturday night in the Von Braun Center located in Huntsville, Alabama, the Havoc skated onto the ice for warm ups for their game against the Quad City Storm. But, instead of their typical red sweaters, the Havoc were sporting pink, purple and white jerseys.
Every year, the Havoc wear special jerseys to be auctioned after the game to raise money for the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund. The fund helps provide life-saving equipment for babies of the Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (RNICU) in the Huntsville Hospital.
“This is always a very meaningful night for the staff, the team and those involved with the Melissa George Fund,” said Ashley Balch, president of the Huntsville Havoc. “We are truly grateful for the support of the community and the overwhelming generosity of our fans.”
The Huntsville’s RNICU cares for over 1,000 infants a year and is the only Level III intensive care unit for critically ill babies in the North Alabama region. With specially trained nurses and doctors, this unit is essential to the health of premature and critically ill babies.
As the game started on Saturday night, the arena was buzzing with the excitement of over 5,000 hockey fans. The puck dropped and the Havoc came out firing in their pink and purple jerseys. Huntsville scored their first goal only 99 seconds into the game. Paralleling the success of the jersey auction, Huntsville won 5-1 against Quad City.
“For us players and everyone that is involved in this amazing night, we know that we aren’t just playing to win the game. We are playing to raise money for this special cause,” said Christian Powers, Havoc team captain.
Once the game was over and the athletes skated to the locker room, the Havoc players returned to start the jersey auction. They lifted their jerseys off their backs, and fans began to bid. Fans also brought donations, such as Keurig K-Cups, gas cards, snacks and more for the Neonatal ICU parent waiting room.
The auctioneer’s voice echoed through the stands and the bids began to fly in. The top jerseys brought in $5,000 and even Havoc head coach, Glenn Detulleo, auctioned off the pink blazer he wore to the game. The Havoc raised a total of $62,346 for the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund.
“The involvement from the community is second to none. There will be people and families that will come to one game a year, and that’s Melissa George night. They know how special of a night it is and they will do anything to be a part of it,” said Powers. “It is truly a game that means the world to a lot of people, including the entire Havoc organization. ”
Hockey is more than winning and losing. It’s bigger than the hard hits and scrappy fights. The SPHL wants to support the athletes and nurture the relationship with the community in which the teams are based. While fans make the effort to support the teams, the teams also make the effort to give back to their community through these types of events.
Hockey has no boundaries, gender or age. This is why teams like the Huntsville Havoc take the time to give back to charities and meaningful funds. The Southern Professional Hockey League is a sports league but also a league with teams who care about the community and their relationship with their fans.