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Commissioner Bettman takes Ice Bucket Challenge

by Tal Pinchevsky

With so many charitable causes seeking much-needed donations, who knew a series of videos showing people dunking ice water over their heads could make such a difference?

The exponential growth of the Ice Bucket Challenge through social media has helped raise overall awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, and members of the hockey community have done their part.


The exponential growth of the Ice Bucket Challenge through social media has helped raise overall awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, with the hockey world making sure to do its part. Watch some of the biggest names in the game take the challenge:

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman accepted the challenge Aug. 14 while in Columbus to help promote the 2015 NHL All-Star Game at Nationwide Arena. Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, Winnipeg Jets executive chairman Mark Chipman and ESPN host John Buccigross were among those who issued the challenge, the Commissioner said.

Commissioner Bettman challenged Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, Calgary Flames president Brian Burke, Los Angeles Kings assistant general manager Rob Blake and Columbus Blue Jackets owner John McConnell.

Burke accepted the challenge, as did McConnell.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly accepted the challenge on Aug. 16.

The ALS Association annouced Saturday that more than $10 million has been raised ($11.4 million compared to $1.7 million in the same time period last year). To donate to the ALS Association, click here.

Pete Frates, a former captain of the Boston College baseball team, is credited with starting the challenge. He was 27 when doctors told him in March 2012 that he had ALS, a progressive neurological disease that slowly robs those afflicted of the use of their muscles. At the time of his diagnosis, Frates was belting home runs on a semi-pro team in his native Massachusetts. Today, he is confined to a wheelchair and uses a feeding tube because he is no longer able to swallow.

An active advocate for ALS awareness through the philanthropic fund that bears his name, Frates organized several charity baseball games; a fitting idea considering one of the game's all-time greats, Lou Gehrig, died from the disease. But it was when Frates dared some of his friends to dunk ice water over their heads in the name of ALS awareness that things really took off.

The concept was conceived in July by Niya Butts, the coach of the women's basketball team at the University of Arizona. Known as Chillin' 4 Charity, the initiative challenged coaches from around the country to dunk ice water over their heads to raise money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, the women's cancers organization named after the late coach.

Putting a twist on the idea, Frates started the Ice Bucket Challenge on July 29.

One of the first people challenged was Joe Correia, a teammate of Frates' on the hockey team at St. John's Prep in Danvers, Mass. Almost immediately, Correia answered Frates' challenge, passing the dare on to one of his former hockey teammates, forward Gregory Campbell of the Boston Bruins.

"I give all the credit to Gregory Campbell. He really broke it," said John Frates, Pete Frates' father and one of the leaders of the Pete Frates Fund. "Right after Gregory, Julian Edelman [of the New England Patriots] did it too. The news channels picked it up, and then it went crazy."

Check out how NHL teams have taken part in the Ice Bucket Challenge:
To donate to the ALS Association, click here.

Given 24 hours to answer the Ice Bucket Challenge, Campbell posted his video online and in turn challenged Bruins teammate Brad Marchand. Marchand accepted the challenge and quickly threw the gauntlet down at four other teammates, including forward Chris Kelly and defenseman Torey Krug.

The Ice Bucket Challenge has expanded at an incredible rate since then, with dozens of NHL players, coaches, executives and even mascots answering the call. In the past few days, those accepting the challenge have included Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Tuukka Rask and P.K. Subban, along with coaches Jon Cooper, Jack Capuano and Claude Julien.

Some players have added their signature to the challenge. Mike Smith of the Arizona Coyotes had a bulldozer drop the water over his head, and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins dressed in a banana costume before taking the plunge alongside his family.

The remarkable movement hasn't been confined to the NHL. Athletes from a number of sports have participated, as have actors, politicians and corporate titans.

"It's incredible in two ways. One from the amount of money that has been donated and two from the tremendous amount of visibility, which is so important," Munk said. "Especially for a cause like ALS, a disease that is not as well-known as some other diseases. Only about half the general public is aware of what ALS is."

As Pete Frates' body has been slowed by the disease, he has fought tirelessly to raise awareness for ALS. But he never saw this incredible surge coming.

"He has high expectations, but even he is absolutely amazed," John Frates said. "All Pete wants, as a leader and a captain of all his teams that he has ever played on, he just wants his teammates to excel and get the credit. So he's doing this really for all those suffering from ALS. That was his mission."

The Ice Bucket Challenge took an interesting turn when members of the Kennedy family posted a video on Facebook. The video ended with the participation of Ethel Kennedy, the 86-year-old widow of Robert Kennedy. Before getting drenched, she made sure to challenge President Barack Obama.

"She calls out Obama personally. It's pretty powerful; I guess he's next," John Frates said. "Then the only one after that is the Pope."

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