Gladiators go pink for cancer research

DULUTH - Don't be alarmed if the ice at the Arena at Gwinnett Center seems to emit a pinkish hue this weekend.

The space will be decked out in the girlish tone today and Sunday as the Gwinnett Gladiators play a special three-day event to raise money for women's cancer research.

Christi Johnson, director of merchandising for the Gladiators, said the aptly named "Pink in the Rink" event debuted Friday and was spurred by the success of other ECHL teams that have put on similar fundraisers.

"There was such success with other teams, so we thought, 'Why not?'" Johnson said. "We've got three games in a row, so we thought we'd give it a whirl."

During tonight and Sunday's games, the players will don black jerseys with hot pink and white lettering and use pink sticks as they knock around the puck during their pregame warmups. And they'll do that as they skate on ice dyed a pepto pink.

The jerseys and sticks will be auctioned off after Sunday's game with proceeds given to cancer-focused nonprofits.

Each year, Johnson said the team participates in a fundraiser as an effort to give back to the community. This year, the jersey and hockey stick auction will raise money for four nonprofits, including Mary Kay, Tutus for Tatas, Emory Eastside Medical Center and the American Cancer Society.

In addition to the players' gear, booths with spa packages and salon giveaways will fill the lobby of the arena for the third annual "Girls Gone Gladiators" fundraiser. Money raised from sales and bids on merchandise will also go to fund the efforts of the cancer nonprofits.

Johnson expects at least 20,000 people to pass through the doors of the arena this weekend looking to take part in the pink party.

"We expect this to do pretty well," Johnson said. "It's a good cause and this really hits home for a lot of people. The chatter from fans is that they plan to go all out in pink."

But the fans aren't the only ones looking to show their support. Chad Denny, who wears No. 5, will wear a hot pink helmet during warmups and others are planning to show their support by wearing the hue.

Having lost his mother to breast cancer, Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle said this weekend's event is especially important to him.

"I think the guys (on the team) understand what it means. They've all been asking about it. But I don't know if it hits home to people, cancer, if people understand how bad it is," Pyle said. "Until you see it, you don't know. I've had three people in my family die of it - my aunt, my uncle and my mom. All within about three years of each other. So it means a lot to me. There's no better cause than that."

As for the pink ice, Pyle said he thinks it's more of an awareness thing.

"I think that's the most important part, is to make people aware of it," Pyle said.

- Staff Writer Christine Troyke contributed to this article.

SideBar: If you go

What: Pink in the Rink

Where: Arena at Gwinnett Center,

6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth

When: Today vs. Wheeling, 7:35 p.m.

· Sunday vs. Columbia, 4:05 p.m.