As surely as spring comes to the National Sports Center in Blaine, a mid-April weekend at the Schwan Super Rink will go pink. For the 21st straight year, female hockey teams will take the ice and play for a higher cause.
The annual Stick it to Cancer hockey tournament, set for April 12-14, will draw both youth and adult female teams to play for a championship, but more importantly, to raise funds to fight breast cancer.
“At most tournaments the goal is to win a championship,” said tournament director Kathy Brodzinski. “And that’s important at Stick-it to Cancer for sure. But our teams never lose sight of the greater purpose -- the mission of fighting breast cancer. I think that makes winning a championship even more meaningful.”
National Sports Center staff members make the presentation of $61,009 at the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center after the 2018 tournament.
Over the two decades the tournament has been held, a total of $870,732 has been donated to breast cancer research. For most of those years, the beneficiary has been the Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota, and this year’s donation will go to the same organization. Last year’s donation total was $61,009.
“It’s rewarding to see people come together for a cause,” said Brodzinski. “They’re still playing a competitive sport, but the most important aspect isn’t winning the game, it’s helping people raise money, and also to honor people affected by cancer, both those we have lost and those who are survivors.”
Several years ago, tournament organizers started naming the competition divisions after family and friends of players who passed away from cancer, a poignant touch that has been embraced by the participants. New nominations are accepted every year, so the division names change every year. Brodzinski said nominations are currently being accepted.
Teams are encouraged to fund raise extra donations on their own, and many teams take up the challenge to win the fund raising race.
Click here to make donations on the Stick-it to Cancer website. Nominations can also be made for division names.
Another unique aspect to the tournament is that the referees and supporting officials work for free, essentially donating their fees to increase the cancer donation.
“It’s amazing that you have referees who get $50, $60 a game, and they donate that to the cause,” said Brodzinski. “It’s really touching. A lot of people want to do it for the cause, whether it’s for their wives or mothers, or daughters one day.”
Tournament registration is still open. Last year’s tournament attracted 50 teams. Divisions are offered for girls’ U10 up to U16, and for women’s A, B, C and College.
When teams arrive this year, there will be several special events. Games will start Friday evening, but all teams will take a break to participate in an “Opening Ceremony” at 12:45 pm on Saturday. The ceremony will be followed by a Celebrity Game at 1:45 pm on Saturday. The Celebrity Game will feature Olympians, current and retired Division 1 and Division III athletes. The game is free to spectators. The roster for the Celebrity Game will be announced at a later date.
Other tournament features include a bake sale, silent auction and a fund-raising raffle.
Click here to watch a video of the 2018 Stick it to Cancer tournament, with some compelling first-person testimonials about what the tournament means to the participants.