by Rob LaPlante
The Schwan Super Rink held its 14th annual Stick it to Cancer hockey tournament April 20-22 and came away with record-setting numbers.
Teams came from as far as North Dakota, Michigan and Ontario to participate in the hockey tournament, which donates money benefiting breast cancer research.
The tournament started in 1999 as a fund-raiser in memory of Jody Anderson, a hockey mom from Centennial who lost her battle 12 years ago.
The inaugural year of the event drew 18 teams and raised $2,000 in funding.
The tournament already broke last year’s record of 106 teams with 118 this year. It had also surpassed the record $59,657 in donations from 2011 with donations reaching over $60,000 as of Sunday afternoon. All proceeds go to the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center.
One of the highlights of the weekend was Saturday’s Belgian waffle breakfast, sponsored by the Park and Auto-Mart of Ham Lake. People ages four through adult were charged $5 with all money raised going toward the fund-raiser.
Susan Schmidt, director of programs for the Schwan Super Rink, said the record numbers continue to grow each year the event has been held in Blaine.
“All eight rinks were used all weekend and 118 teams is a huge number,” Schmidt said. “We don’t hand out awards for the winners on the ice, but we do hand out plaques for the teams with the highest donations.”
The highest donation of the weekend came from two under-12 Olsen Fish House teams of Elk River. The two teams donated a record amount of $8,500 as well as a second donation of $5,500.
The third largest donation of $4,700 came from an under-14 team that traveled from Mandan, N.D.
With teams ranging in age from six years old up to 60 years old, Schmidt said the quality of play of all age brackets has been a highlight.
“It’s been great hockey,” she said. “Some of the top players in the state are in the under-16 group. The under-12, under-10 and under-8 age groups have had a lot of close games with some being decided in overtime,” she said.
“One of the best moments was hearing all the different stories of each person. We have some actual survivors who are playing in the tourney. I think the ladies in their 60s playing are having more fun than the kids,” Schmidt said.
While the action on the ice has been competitive, the main focus is the gathering of thousands of people joining their time and money for an important cause.
“This tournament continues to grow every year,” Schmidt said. “The hockey is a big part of the weekend, but everyone knows that’s not the main focus. Eventually we’ll hit our maximum amount of teams we can allow, but each year it continues to get bigger.”
The ultimate goal of $70,000 in donations should be surpassed when they figure in the gate costs, waffle breakfast and other outside donations.
Tickets for the event were good for the tournament as well as the first annual Minnesota Bass Expo that was held at the NSC Sports Hall on the same dates.