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Gardiner, Canes Take Plunge for Special Olympics

Gardiner rallies teammates to support Special Olympics athletes

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

If you lead the Carolina Hurricanes to water, they will plunge.

Jake Gardiner and six of his teammates - Haydn Fleury, Jordan Martinook, Brock McGinn, James Reimer, Jordan Staal and Trevor van Riemsdyk - participated in a polar plunge at Lake Raleigh on Saturday in support of the Special Olympics.

And the looks on their faces said it all.

"It felt like jumping into glass," Gardiner said. "It was cold."

Some, including Gardiner's friends in Minnesota, have playfully thrown cold water - pun intended - on the so-called "polar" aspect of the plunge.

"They were chirping me saying it's nothing compared to doing a polar plunge in Minnesota, but it's still cold water. No matter where you do it, it's going to be cold," Gardiner countered. "You've got to get your head under, and at that temperature, it's not fun."

North Carolina or Minnesota, ice in the lake or not, cold is cold.

"North Carolina may be a bit warmer than most places, but it still was cold," Staal said. "Definitely wasn't going for a longer swim than just a dip."

A dip was all that was necessary. After all, the plunge was a deeper symbolic gesture, one close to Gardiner's heart.

Photos and video captured of the brief cold-water dip into Lake Raleigh will be used for promotional awareness of various other polar plunges held in the coming weeks throughout North Carolina in support of the Special Olympics.

Gardiner's brother-in-law, Sam Cashin, is a multi-sport Special Olympics athlete.

"He plays all sorts of sports," Gardiner said. "Hockey, bowling, softball, track, basketball, floor hockey. Basically everything."

Gardiner has volunteered at Cashin's track practices. The Canes' defenseman has also taken part in Special Olympics events during his eight seasons in Toronto and went to the summer games in Vancouver in 2014.

And, he's converted Cashin to a Canes fan.

"He had basically all the Leafs swag. A onesie, everything," Gardiner said. "He's a big Canes fan now. He just loves it."

Gardiner jumped at the opportunity to support North Carolina's chapter of the Special Olympics.

"It was great. Five or six guys stepped up right away," he said. "It just shows guys care and want to help out."

"Gards did a great job of getting some guys together and hopefully raising some awareness and some cash for a great cause," Staal said. "It's always fun to watch everyone compete in a sport we love playing and competing in. Everyone should have that opportunity."

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