The Hockey Community has always been strong from the mite level on through to the professional leagues, no matter how intense the rivalries, that bond is never truly broken. So, it should come as no surprise that NHL stars would want to pay it forward.
The sport of hockey is a thrilling, adrenaline-filled ride whether you are a player or a mere spectator, but it’s easy to forget how dangerous it can be, even when the skaters are highly skilled. Unfortunately, this year there have been a few glaring reminders of that.
We have seen the entire NHL and NWHL rally around Denna Laing, who suffered a spinal cord injury at the NWHL’s first appearance at the Winter Classic this January. Now, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Minnesota Wild (among others) are rallying around Matt Olson.
Rivalries Set Aside
The teams are embroiled in the heat of a playoff race (one in the running while the other sits just outside with 11 games remaining) and are long-time divisional rivals with no love lost, but they are setting all of that aside to help one of their own.
— Minnesota Wild Foundation (@MNWildFound) March 19, 2016
Olson is a native of Isanti, MN and suffered a spinal cord injury while playing at the Junior hockey level with the Chicago Cougars. The injury occurred on February 21, 2016, as Olson was chasing a puck in behind the net and caught an edge. The injury was not the result of direct contact, simply a very unfortunate accident playing the sport that he loves.
His continued care and treatment are expected to be extremely costly.
A Go Fund Me account has been set up to help his family with the ongoing medical expenses associated with such a devastating injury, and it is currently close to $118,000. However, the Blackhawks and Wild have teamed up to raise funds and awareness for Olson and his family, and to help one of their own.
Both teams have generously donated a selection of auction items ranging from a Stadium Series jacket (Wild), Player For A Day (Wild/Blackhawks), an opportunity to travel with the team on a road trip (Wild/Blackhawks) and tickets to a home game with locker room tour and a meet and greet with players (Blackhawks) just to name a few.
The Auction will start Sunday, March 20th at noon (CST) before the Blackhawks host the Wild, and will conclude on Wednesday, March 30th at noon (CST) the day after the Wild host the Blackhawks.
The Wild and Blackhawks players will be wearing a special sticker on their helmets to honor Olson and help spread awareness to aid the families fundraising efforts. The teams will be joined by their broadcast partners Fox Sports North, Comcast SportsNet Chicago, WGN-TV, WGN Radio, 100.3 KFAN as they will also feature Olson’s story throughout each of the meetings and help promote the auction over the course of the week in between meetings.
Members of Olson’s family including his brother, grandfather, and cousin will be on hand in Minnesota to make the traditional “Let’s Play Hockey” call before the game. Olson’s story will also be shared throughout the game and during the televised broadcast to remind people about the auction and keep tabs on the bidding. They will also be sharing how to bid and where fans can make donations.
In addition, proceeds from the program sales will also be donated.
Both teams have made statements regarding their joint efforts to help Olson and his family.
“Just Like So many across the State of Hockey, we wanted to help Matt and his family in any way possible,” said Wild Chief Operating Officer Matt Majka. “We are grateful to the Blackhawks organization, and all associated broadcast partners for teaming up with us so that we can generate the largest possible impact for Matt and his family.”
“We are proud to unite with the Minnesota Wild and the hockey community to support Matt and his family during this difficult time,” said Blackhawks Executive VP Jay Blunk. “The Blackhawks organization stands with the Olson family and encourages our fans to consider supporting this important cause.”
NHL Hockey Community Comes Together
In addition to this fundraising effort the Blackhawks, Rockford IceHogs, Florida Panthers and San Jose Sharks, who have donated various memorabilia to Olson’s team, the Chicago Cougars. The items will be auctioned off to raise funds for the 20-year-old defenseman.
He has also received support from Totino-Grace where Olson played high school hockey. They have the force behind many of the fundraising efforts on behalf of the family.
— Let's Play Hockey (@LetsPlay_Hockey) March 18, 2016
The Cougars, who are a part of the U.S. Premier Hockey League, don’t anticipate the donations stopping anytime in the near future.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) March 19, 2016
The rivalries are strong in hockey, even bitter at times, but at the end of the day no one has forgotten that when the lights go out in the arena, they are still a family. And family stands together.
Kristi is a long time hockey fan who grew up in, and around hockey rinks across the United States and Canada. A native Chicagoan, Loucks has always been an avid Blackhawks fan. Kristi also covers the Chicago Cubs and writes suspense thrillers, when not covering the Chicago Blackhawks. Follow Kristi on twitter @louckske