Stars continue to embrace community

by Paige Hale || AHL On The Beat Archive

Tough hockey players and even tougher children came together for the third year in a row at Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin, Texas. The Texas Stars players and staff visited the hospital in late November, handing out team items, signing autographs and playing with kids in the third-floor playroom.

“It’s always a good experience,” said Stars right wing Colton Sceviour. “We did the same thing for the last few years. Kids get to come out of their rooms. It’s good to see them and you can brighten their day up for a little bit. It feels like you’re doing a lot for them.”

All the players were excited to meet kids, parents and hospital staff.

“It’s good to see those who are here around the holidays,” Stars defenseman Dan Spang said. “We like coming to visit them when our schedule allows. It makes their day and it’s nice to help out, doing anything we can for our community.”

Not only does giving back make a huge impact on the fans and hockey lovers, Spang noted doing things as a team is always a great team-building experience.

“It’s good to be with the guys away from the rink,” he said, “especially doing something as positive as this. It helps us get to know each other by coming together to help people out.”

In addition to the hospital visit, the Stars have continued their strong tradition of community involvement with a number of charitable events for the Austin community during the first two months of the season.

The team hosted its second Pink in the Rink event on Oct. 22 at Cedar Park Center. In a game against the Peoria Rivermen, the Stars promoted breast cancer awareness by wearing “Pink in the Rink” themed jerseys, which were auctioned off after the game. The Stars also donated $2 for each ticket sold. In all, nearly $12,000 was donated to the Susan G. Komen Austin Affiliate.

The charitable theme nights continued through November, when Texas hosted Military Appreciation weekend on Nov. 11 and 12, featuring “Stars and Stripes” themed jerseys. The red-white-and-blue jerseys were worn for both games over the weekend and auctioned off after the games.

Along with the game-worn jerseys, military items and other Stars items were sold in a silent auction to raise money for military veterans.

On Nov. 19, the Stars asked fans to participate in the third annual Teddy Bear Toss. When right wing Tomas Vincour scored the team’s first goal of the night against Houston, fans littered the ice with more than 1,700 stuffed animals. The toys were donated to Operation Blue Santa.

The Texas Stars Foundation hosted a growing number of charitable events and planned initiatives that bring the players and the community together, raising money for worthy causes. Stars players joined other hockey teams in growing mustaches for Movember, supporting awareness for prostate cancer and other men’s cancer initiatives. Fans were encouraged to donate to the cause online and at in-game auctions. In all, the Stars raised nearly $3,000, ranking as one of the highest grossing groups in the Greater Austin area.

“Now that I’ve grown a mustache, I feel like I am looking at my dad every time I look in the mirror,” said center Mathieu Tousignant.

The Foundation hosted its first Bowling with the Stars night at Mel’s Lone Star Lanes in Georgetown, Texas, on Nov. 16. Fans bowled with Stars players in an event that raised money for the Texas Stars Foundation. The players wore retro-style bowling shirts featuring their nicknames that were auctioned off at the end of the event.

As the season continues, the team and its foundation, are working on several more community events for the next few months. In December, the Stars invited local school choirs to celebrate the holidays by singing carols during intermissions at the Dec. 9 and 10 games against Charlotte and Oklahoma City. Planned 2012 events include Casino Night, a golf outing, a second Military Appreciation weekend and a Pucks and Paws game.

Stars left wing Francis Wathier emphasized the humbling nature of participating in community outreach events such as the Children’s Hospital visit.

“To see what’s happening and thinking, ‘I have to appreciate life a little more.’ … If I have a bad practice or a bad game it’s nothing compared to what those kids fight every day,” Wathier said.

“I have a three-year-old son and I would be in tears to see him fighting for his life. It makes you think about life from a different perspective. It helps us appreciate the important things in life, such as health and love.”