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Norfolk tickled pink to support cure

by Nathan Skytta || AHL On The Beat Archive 

For the Norfolk Admirals, January 15th, 2011 brought upon one of the most anticipated home games of the entire season. It was not a night where the Admirals would take on a long-time rival at Scope nor was it a night where a fan would get the chance to win a free car.

It was a night where the Admirals players along with 8,103 of their fans packed Scope to help fight breast cancer. This fight was not one that would result in a five-minute major penalty for the players nor would it result in a fan being ejected. What it resulted in was possibly saving many lives down the road.

The ice was dyed pink and fans traded their blue and white jerseys for pink shirts showing their dedication to the fight. Tonight was the night that the Admirals and their fans aimed to raise awareness in the cause against breast cancer and to raise money for the Tidewater Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Pink in the Rink 2011 marked the fourth consecutive season that the Admirals and Komen have joined together to help raise awareness and to collect the money that will help to one day find the cure this world needs to defeat the debilitating disease. The Admirals and Susan G. Komen for the Cure have teamed together to help raise tens of thousands of dollars over these last four years.

According to Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s website, more than 1.3 million people (both men and women) are diagnosed annually with breast cancer. Despite the advancement in technology, there is still no cure for the disease. However, there is hope and that’s one thing the disease can’t take away from a person.

"One in eight women nationally and one in six women in Hampton Roads is diagnosed each year with breast cancer. That’s a remarkable number when you look at it as a whole," remarked Karen Zablocki, an Administrator with the Tidewater Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. "Just think of all the women that are in your life. You never know which one could be diagnosed next."

The Admirals and Susan G. Komen for the Cure Tidewater affiliate have declared a mission to help spread the hope and knowledge throughout Hampton Roads by raising awareness and money for the fight against breast cancer.

The first Pink in the Rink took place on January 12, 2008 and became a bit of a challenge. The ice had turned a dark-fuchsia color and the players and officials could barely see the lines.

"When Bernie [former Admirals Vice President and Assistant General Manager Mark Bernard] called me first thing in the morning because the players and officials couldn’t see the ice, I thought we were in trouble. But we put our minds together and figured out a solution," stated Charlie Colón, Director of Group Sales for the Norfolk Admirals.

Since that night, Rich Cubin and his ice crew have done a great job formulating the pink ice," stated Colón. "It has become a night that everyone involved highlights in September and is one of the best nights to be at an Admirals game."

When asked how the ice turned out on Saturday night, Colón said "Fantastic! The ice was the best it’s ever been for Pink in the Rink and hopefully it can turn out that good for future Pink in the Rink games. Rich Cubin and his Rink Specialists deserve a round of applause for all their hard work, especially since they worked overnight and between games to get it right."

Pink in the Rink has become a charitable success each year with 2011 being the best one yet. The announced attendance for the inaugural "Pink in the Rink" night was 5,650. The attendance for the game on Saturday evening was 8,103, which was the fourth highest attended game since the Admirals joined the AHL in 2000.

"The event has grown from year to year, with this year being the best year according to attendance records" stated Colón. "It’s exciting to see and hopefully next year we fill Scope to the rafters."

Events leading up to the start of the game included, "Hockey 101" along with a breast cancer informational session. "It’s important to get the information out there and while the fans are here for a good cause, hopefully the class helps them understand the game and ways to detect breast cancer," stated Zablocki.

Janice Bartle, a breast cancer survivor of two and half years, and April Elmore, a twelve-year survivor and current Virginia Beach firefighter, found out about Pink in the Rink and wanted to share their survival stories.

"When I was diagnosed with cancer, the first thought that went through my head was about everything I had planned left in my life, including seeing my son graduate from high school and eventually spoiling my grandchildren," stated Janice.

"With the help of my family, my friends and foundations like Susan G. Komen for the Cure, I beat the disease. The fight against breast cancer has come so far and without the combined efforts of the Admirals and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, others may not get to live the life I have been blessed with having."

The story that April was pleased to share started roughly twelve years ago when she was a healthy 36-year-old firefighter. After finding lumps spreading on her body, April went in for a more thorough exam and that is when she was diagnosed with cancer.

After undergoing surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and reconstructive surgery, April remains cancer free and a dedicated Virginia Beach firefighter. "Know your family history and remember to get yearly physicals," said Karen, "You never know when it could be you, so be proactive early and take precautions. It can’t hurt."

Out of the 40 home games the Admirals play each season, Pink in the Rink night has become a yearly highlight and one of the most important nights of the regular season for everyone involved. It is the one night where the fight off the ice becomes just as important as the battle on the ice.

As the late college basketball coach Jimmy Valvano stated just months before he passed, "It may not save my life. It may save my children’s lives. It may save someone you love."