Take any breast cancer charity event and there will be no question about the color of the day –it’ll be pink. Pink shirts, pink balloons, pink ribbons, pink-frosted cupcakes for the volunteers.
With such competition it’s hard to win the pink game. But for today’s Flashback Friday, we want to look back 11 years to a year the Stick-it to Cancer hockey tournament not only won the pink game, but crushed it.
It was 2008, and John Connelly, the National Sports Center’s sponsorship sales guy at the time, successfully convinced Farmer’s Insurance to make a contribution to the Stick-it Tournament. Their money would go to — wait for it — painting the ice pink for the tournament. Not just a pink logo in the middle, not just one sheet of ice, but every square inch of all six sheets of game ice.
Connelly had the idea, but it would take Brandon Radeke, who was the Super Rink’s Ice Operations Manager to make it happen. Connelly knew that Radeke, who had a reputation as someone who could never step away from this challenge, would be on board. He was; jumping in with a “we’ve got this” attitude.
Maybe that’s why Radeke is now the director of ice operations for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and also the NHL’s go-to guy to install ice for the NHL’s outdoor stadium games. He gets things done.
But this job would turn out to be a bit of a monster.
Radeke leveraged his connections to borrow a painting machine from the Xcel Energy Center, and then studied up on how to mix the paint, which came as a powder, in the machine’s tank. The painting date was set – Thursday, April 17, 2008. The production window was tight. Painting couldn’t start until ice-rentals ended for the night. Stick-it games were scheduled to the next afternoon. No problem, said Radeke, who estimated that entire task, all six sheets, would take an hour and a half.
Supporting operations staff was recruited, media was invited, and a few curious onlookers watched from the stands. At 10 pm sharp the painting machine rolled onto Super Rink #2. When painting was completed, staff needed to re-flood the rink, adding a protective layer of new ice over the paint. It took hours. By then all the onlookers had long since gone home to bed. Radeke’s crew faced reality; they were going to be pulling an all-nighter.
But they persevered. When NSC staff arrived for their office jobs the next morning, Radeke was still painting. The pink-painting project eventually took something like 12 hours, but in the end the ice was a pristine and beautiful pink. The promise had been kept.
Most players found the pink ice to be fun, but it wasn’t universally popular. Some players thought it was distracting. But the goal was publicity for the tournament, and it certainly accomplished that goal. TV stations, photographers and spectators all loved the visuals.
Suffice it to say, the Stick-it to Cancer pink ice only happened once. No one had the nerve to ask Radeke and his crew to do it again. You can rise to be a champion, but sometimes only once.
So that’s the story of the year the Stick-it to Cancer Hockey Tournament won the pink game.