DETROIT — Joe Louis Arena is usually home to a sea of red, but Saturday, the building was overtaken by pink.
Pink apparel replaced the typical red in the stands, and players swapped out their black and white stick tape and opted for a light pink in the spirit of the Red Wings eighth annual Breast Cancer Awareness Night.
When the doors opened, fans were greeted by an assortment of activities in the concourse, including a mystery puck draw manned by from players’ girlfriends and wives, a silent auction with 42 items including sticks from warmups, a winter knit hat sale with proceeds benefiting the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and a 50/50 raffle.
The funds will go toward helping under-insured and uninsured women in metro Detroit offset the costs of breast cancer treatments.
The day started with about 60 breast cancer patients and survivors watching the Red Wings game-day morning skate. Among the survivors was Kimberly Short of Redford, Mich., who had the opportunity to experience a “Dream Day with the Red Wings.”
Of all the games to be Short’s first, Breast Cancer Awareness Night was the perfect choice.
Short and a small group of family and friends were escorted after morning skate to meet coach Mike Babcock and goaltender Jimmy Howard, her favorite player. Before the game kicked off, Short’s group watched pregame warmups from inside the penalty box and after the first period, she took a ride on the Zamboni as it cleaned the ice.
The day was a highlight in what’s been a rough few months for Short. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in January, and it quickly spread to her other breast and lymph node. After undergoing a double mastectomy, she currently is nearing the end of her preventative chemotherapy treatments.
“(Cancer) is a roller coaster, it changes your life,” Short said. “It takes you over, really. I’m in a good place now, much better than when I was diagnosed. Events like this, it just brings more awareness for people and I just think it’s a good thing — and I get to have fun.”
Drew Miller’s wife, Colleen, was one of multiple significant others volunteering at the mystery puck draw during pregame. For $35, fans could take their pick from a variety of concealed, autographed pucks signed by current Red Wings.
One puck was signed in gold by Howard, and the fan who pulled his puck met him following the game.
Miller and fellow wives and girlfriends are used to their husbands and boyfriends being the face of Red Wings charitable initiatives, but Breast Cancer Awareness Night gave the women a chance to interact with fans and personally lend a hand to the cause.
“It’s such a great organization that they work for, and their name is out there,” Miller said. “When they back up a cause it helps the community to get behind it, so if we can help just a little bit, it’s an honor to be a part of it.”
While the arena’s seats were filled with breast cancer supporters, a few groups of survivors and patients got to watch the game luxury-style from a suite. United by a common struggle, the men and women found comfort in each others companionship and the attention the event brought to breast cancer.
Captain Henrik Zetterberg and his wife Emma Zetterberg hosted four families of breast cancer survivors in their Zetterberg Foundation Suite, Brendan Smith donated a suite to 10 two-time patients and survivors and 40 fans were honored in two Survivor Suites.
During the first period, the Zetterberg Foundation guests were greeted by Emma, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor, and she spent time distributing special gift bags, taking photos and exchanging stories with each family.
“I’m so excited, and Emma was so warm and nice,” said Lisa Givens, one of the Zetterberg Foundation guests. “It was wonderful. We got ushered right up; we felt like royalty.”
Smith’s guests met with him following the game and talked about the cancer that bonds them. Smith’s grandmother and grandfather both had breast cancer, his grandmother passing from the disease a few years ago and his grandfather now cancer-free.
The 39 females and one male survivor in the Survivors Suites also had a meet-and-greet when alumni Kris Draper dropped in to surprise them during the second intermission. He was met with a room full of cheers and clapping, followed by photos and autographs.
“I can’t even imagine what they’re going through with breast cancer,” Draper said. “Cancer seems to touch almost everybody’s family somehow, so just to be able to come in here and sign some autographs and talk and put smiles on some ladies faces is great.”