From The Daily Sentinel
By Patti Arnold
It’s understandable if the Colorado Mesa hockey team wanted to make Thursday’s “Pink the Rink” into a celebration of the return of the program.
That’s not what the night is about, coach Tim Winegard said.
“It’s not about us. We made that very clear,” said Winegard, who restarted the hockey program at CMU in 2014 — and again this year. “It’s our way to use hockey to do some good in our own community and we’re very proud of that. It’s equal to do what we do on the ice in our sport.
“In fact, it’s more important than sticks and pucks and we’re thrilled with the amount of attention it’s received. It grows every year and we make more money for the charity every year, and not a penny to the CMU program.”
Six years ago, Winegard and his team captain discussed starting a charitable event, with a couple of caveats: It needed to benefit the local community and reach as many people as possible. The St. Mary’s Cancer Survivorship Program was the perfect fit.
The Mavericks wanted to help those in the Grand Valley with any form of cancer, but adopted the pink color scheme associated with breast cancer awareness — the rhyme makes for a memorable event name, and what’s better than tough hockey players wearing pink?
“My players wanted to support it because it stays local,” Winegard said. “It helps people across all genders, ethnicities, with all types of cancers, because cancer affects everybody. That’s why we settled on the one we settled on. We think it’s a fantastic community and that’s why we’ve kept it as the big charity for Pink the Rink, because it’s inclusive of everybody.”
The event has raised more than $65,000, Winegard said, and grows every year.
Pink the Rink was skipped last year because there was no hockey program. Not only did the coronavirus pandemic scuttle the season, but the closure of Glacier Ice Arena meant the Mavericks had no home ice. No ice, no team.
When the rink was purchased this past June with the intention of keeping the ice rink, Winegard started making plans to get the team back together. After repairs and renovations to what is now River City Sportplex, the ice was ready for skaters early last month.
“We usually start in the middle of August, so we’re behind compared to other teams in being on the ice because our season got started six or seven weeks later than usual,” Winegard said. “We’re kind of playing catch-up.”
The majority of CMU’s 2019-20 team graduated over the past two years, so he only returned about a half-dozen players. As they’ve gotten more ice time, the Mavericks are getting up to speed.
“None of them had been on the ice for almost two years,” Winegard said. “Our first game against New Mexico, we’d been on the ice for a week and they had played 10 games. The effort was there, but if you’re not in shape at this level, it’s hard to play.”
Once they were certain River City Sportplex would be in operation to allow them to have a season, the Mavs started planning the relaunch of Pink the Rink.
Tickets are $10 per person and are available at the door, which opens at 6:15 on Thursday evening. T-shirts are $10 and raffle tickets to win one of the 25 game-worn pink jerseys are $5 each, or a bundle of five for $20. Silent auction items will be up for bid throughout the evening.
Every dollar raised, from tickets to T-shirts to beer sales, goes to the St. Mary’s Cancer Survivorship Program. A portion of the proceeds from a fundraiser from 5-8 tonight at Monumental Beer Works, 2575 Highway 6&50, also goes to the cause.
Behind the scenes, the players are juggling school, 6:30 a.m. practices and games, and are charged with organizing Thursday’s event.
“It’s part of what it means to be a CMU hockey player,” Winegard said. “It’s the same as coming to practice or doing weights with strength and conditioning coaches, you do Pink the Rink. It’s part of the whole package of being a player under this program.”
(Originally published at https://www.gjsentinel.com/sports/cmu-hockey-team-relaunches-pink-the-rink/article_52af09b4-4701-11ec-aed0-dbdd2b850f74.html)