A commitment to community was the focus of hockey in the Adirondacks during 2015.
From the Adirondack Flames closing out their 2014-15 campaign, to a summer of introducing the Adirondack Thunder brand and new mascot Gunnar, to an active beginning to the 2015-16 Thunder inaugural season, community presence has been at an all-time high.
Adirondack Youth Hockey Association
As 2014 ended with a Bill Arnold overtime game winner, 2015 started with the Flames players engaging with future Flames at Adirondack Youth Hockey practices. The Flames, led by their community Man of the Year Mathieu Tousignant (pictured above), visited practices with kids ranging from learn to skate through peewees to focus on skill development, situational drills and having fun on the ice. The Flames’ partnership with AYHA was a successful one that continued with the Thunder in the 2015-16 season
The Flames launched the campaign to suggest the renovation of the Amanda’s House on January 10, a month long project that resulted in over $10,000 donated from the Flames to the Amanda’s House Campaign. The project ultimately raised over $50,000 and the House was able to be reopened in March 2015.
Pink In The Rink 2015
The Flames held their first jersey auction of 2015 on Pink in the Rink Night on January 17 against the Milwaukee Admirals. After a spirited overtime loss, the Flames raised over $14,500 for the C.R. Wood Cancer Center at Glens Falls Hospital, stemming from the jersey auction and other donations.
Double H Ranch
The Flames held a unique event through their partnership with the Double H Ranch, as the team held the first annual Walk-A-Thon / Skate-A-Thon to benefit the ranch on January 25, 2015. The Flames were able to raise over $5,000 in donations, all of which was directly donated back to Double H. The team then had four players visit the Ranch’s ski mountain on February 16, where Tousignant, Bryce Van Brabant, Turner Elson and Sena Acolatse spent an afternoon hanging with the campers and even testing out the Ranch’s adaptive skiing program.
Lake George Winter Carnival
The Lake George Winter Carnival was the site of the Flames’ next community visit on February 14, as the entire team stepped onto the frozen lake to skate with local youth hockey kids. Despite sub-zero temperatures, the players had a fun and eventful time on the lake as they got the chance to interact with the local community.
Good Move School Program
The Glens Falls Hospital Good Move Program was the next stop for the Flames, as Turner Elson and Max Reinhart, along with the voice of the Flames, Cameron Close, presented the program to the Lake George Elementary School on March 11, 2015. Elson and Reinhart spoke to over 150 students on the importance of physical activity, healthy eating and family health. All students involved got a free flex ticket after the presentation.
Autism Awareness Night 2015
The Flames wore one final specialty jersey on April 12 as they hosted the Lake Erie Monsters on Autism Awareness Night, in partnership with the Upstate Autism Alliance. The jerseys, auctioned off on eBay after the game, raised over $10,000 in donations.
The final community event of the season for the Flames came on April 15. Six Flames spent a day trading in their sticks and gloves for paintbrushes and rollers Flames players as they gave Catholic Charities a fresh coat of paint as part of their United Way Day of Caring. The Flames used generous donations from Better Than New Painting and Sherwin Williams to do the project completely free of charge to the recipient.
As the Flames transitioned into Thunder, the front office staff, along with our new mascot, Gunnar, visited several events throughout the Adirondacks during summer of 2015. The stops included the LARAC Arts Festival, the annual Duck Race at Haviland Cove, Glens Falls RiverFest, the Adirondack Balloon Festival and more. The Thunder also partnered with the Glens Falls Dragons to introduce Gunnar and the Thunder brand at various Dragons’ home games during their 2015 season. The Thunder were also involved with the weekly Take-A-Bite program in Downtown Glens Falls.
Glens Falls YMCA
The Summer community program led into the arrival of the Thunder players and coaches in October 2015, which kicked off an aggressive community schedule for the fall and winter of 2015, beginning at the Glens Falls YMCA on October 8, as James Henry, Mackenzie Braid, Alex Carrier and Brent Troyan attended Pedal For a Purpose to help raise awareness and funds for the YMCA’s annual event.
Cruise With The Thunder
Later that day, the Glens Falls Civic Center foundation hosted the “Cruise With The Thunder” as fans had the opportunity to step onto a boat cruise of Lake George with Thunder players and coaches. The entire team was present as they engaged with Thunder fans for the first time as a group.
Glens Falls Senior Center
On November 10, Thunder players visited the Glens Falls Senior Center to help pave the way for a new fence to hit the ground as part of the team’s United Way Day of Caring. Greg Wolfe, Jeff Silengo, Garrett Ladd, Kyle Flanagan, Luke Curadi, Drew Fielding and Roberts Lipsbergs took down an old rusted fence next to the parking lot, cutting down wires and clearing out old branches, leading the way for a new fence to be built during the spring.
School Day Game
In November, the Thunder introduced the first ever School Day Game, where Gunnar and Thunder staff made their rounds to a couple of local schools on November 17 to drop of educational workbooks and meet with kids who would come out to watch the team play the following day. Gunnar made some new friends and kids from the Ticonderoga and Putnam school districts were treated to a day they will not soon forget as the Thunder took on Norfolk in a special 10:00 a.m. start time.
On November 19, Gunnar made an even more special trip to visit 14-year old Jeffery Jackson at his home in Queensbury. Jeffery recently beat a battle with colon cancer and Gunnar dropped of a team signed stick in advance of Jeffery dropping the puck at the Thunder’s home game on December 11.
Big Brothers Big Sisters
The Thunder partnered with the Big Brothers / Big Sisters program, beginning in November, for a series of three events. On October 22, Michael Kirkpatrick and Dana Fraser led a Big / Little Mixer at the Civic Center, giving a tour of the Thunder locker room and answering questions about achieving dreams and setting goals as professional athletes. Thunder staff then gave the group a tour of the arena before everyone enjoyed pizza in Heritage Hall.
James Henry and Patch Alber then visited the Big Brothers / Big Sisters program, at the William M. Barton Middle School in Queensbury on November 20 to speak at the Middle School transition program, which matches high school students with middle school students to help ease the transition from elementary school. Alber and Henry talked about working through difficult obstacles and finding role models in their journey to becoming professional hockey players. The two Thunder skaters then played in a team building activity with the kids to help bring the group closer together.
The Thunder completed their Big Brothers / Big Sisters tour in December, as Kirkpatrick, Mike Busillo and Ryan Lomberg returned to Queensbury to spend time with a group of younger students. The Thunder players bonded with the younger students and played in some fun games with the kids. Kirkpatrick became especially close with one student (pictured below) setting up a future visit in 2016. from the team!
Post Game Skates With The Team
The Thunder got on the ice with our local fans twice during their early season schedule, with post game skates on November 29 and December 4. The Thunder held 45-minute long open skates after both games, open to all fans who were at the games.
Wives & Girlfriends – Puck Wreaths
As the calendar flipped into December, the Thunder wives and girlfriends, got in on the community action, as they put together two “puck wreaths”, which consisted of Thunder signed hockey pucks and hockey tape, which sold for a combined $1,001, with all proceeds donated to the Open Door Mission in Glens Falls. Open Door helps to provide food and meals for those who are unable to on their own.
Military Appreciation Night
The Thunder held their first themed jersey night of the season on December 12 for Military Appreciation Night, presented by UA Local 773. UA Local sponsored camo jerseys, which the Thunder wore against the Manchester Monarchs and auctioned off after the game, with over $8,000 being donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Cans, Coats & Teddy Bears
Closing out on December 14, the Thunder completed their coat, can and teddy bear collections with over 1,500 items donated to local charities. From the canned food drive on November 25, the Thunder collected over 800 non-perishable food items, donated to Open Door and Salvation Army. The November coat drive raised over 400 coats, all of which were donated to the Washington County Economic Opportunity Council and the Moreau Community Center. Finally, the Teddy Bear Toss on December 4 collected over 350 bears, all of which were donated to Salvation Army.
Glens Falls Youth Center
To cap off 2015, the Thunder made a special trip to the Glens Falls Youth Center, where four Thunder players, combined with the generosity of a local business partner, donated hats, mittens, tickets and food vouchers to 100 kids at the Youth Center. Thunder players Michael Kirkpatrick, Dana Fraser, James Henry and Mike Busillo then hung around after the event for a spirited game of dodgeball with the kids in attendance.
In summary, the Flames and Thunder made nearly 100 appearances throughout the community during the 2015 calendar year. The team raised over $35,000 for local charities through jersey auctions, campaigns and raffles and donated over 2,500 items, ranging from coats during the winter season to teddy bears for children around the holidays. As we head into 2016, we hope to exceed those numbers to continue to do our part towards contributing to the local community.
The Thunder are already slated to continue on their commitment to community in 2016, with visits to local schools, hospitals, youth hockey practices and local businesses already scheduled. For up to date information on the Thunder in the community, visit ECHLThunder.com and the Thunder’s social media channels.