Crunch take unique approach to charity

By Ashley Fallon || AHL On The Beat Archive

Walk into any one of the popular bars in the Greater Syracuse Area, and there’s a chance you may get served by one of the Syracuse Crunch hockey players. So why exactly are professional hockey players spending time off the ice and behind the bar? To raise money for local charities.

The Syracuse Crunch have partnered with Miller Lite/Molson Canadian to put on several Crunch celebrity bartending events where the players appear behind the bar at several favorite Syracuse establishments. While tending bar, any tips received are donated to various local charities. The Crunch have viewed this form of fundraising as a fun and different way to get out in the city, engage with fans, and give back to the community.

One of the more popular parts of the event is the player-worn jersey auction. The players wear and sign a jersey while bartending and hold an auction at the conclusion of the event. With hockey players being competitive in nature, a friendly competition emerges between the player- bartenders to see who can auction their jersey off for the most amount of money, to benefit charity.

The raised proceeds have been distributed among five different charities: the Food Bank of Central New York, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Golisano Children’s Hospital, the Clark Burn Treatment Center, and the SPCA.

“As much as I love seeing the fans at the rink, it’s great seeing them out supporting our goal of helping local charities,” Crunch defenseman Jared Nightingale said. “We are truly lucky having fans as loyal as ours.”

In fact, the fans have been the biggest supporters of the events. Just look into the bar crowd and see the fans sporting their Crunch gear, ready to spend some time with their favorite players. Syracuse is not only a sports-loving community, but also a socially responsible one.

The Crunch have appeared at seven bartending events this season, already raising close to $3,000, with more events to come.

The Crunch participating in this kind of fundraising dates back eight years ago to the 2004-05 season. The continued success of the event has led to over $60,000 raised over the years.

Jim Sarosy, chief operating officer of the Crunch, speaks about the past years of the bartender appearances.

“This has definitely been one of the more successful appearance-based programs that we have done over the years,” he said. “We really enjoy the opportunity to participate in a unique non-ticket based fundraiser.”

The Crunch hockey club, as a whole, takes extreme pride in their efforts to give back and the team has been on board with all community events. Nightingale sums up the attitude of the club: “If we can help the community in any way, we are all winners.”