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Ice gets makeover as part of annual Pink in the Rink

DULUTH - Who says real men don't wear pink?

In an effort to raise awareness and money for breast cancer research and treatment, the Gwinnett Gladiators will don pink and black Gwinnett Relay for Life jerseys and skate on pink ice Saturday and Sunday during games with ECHL foes South Carolina and Charlotte.

For the second consecutive year, the team will partner with several non-profit groups for its Pink in the Rink weekend.

A percentage of ticket and merchandise sales - including commemorative merchandise available on the team's Web site - will be donated along with raffle money and proceeds from Sunday's auction of game-worn jerseys.

"The cool thing about Sunday is these things are still hot and sweaty and smelly," said Jim Hall, Gladiators' director of community relations. "They put them on hangers in the locker room and the players take part in the auction."

Hall said 2008's campaign raised nearly $90,000, the jersey auction alone netting more than $56,000. About $40,000 went to the organizations that partnered with the team.

Hockey teams at all levels, including the National Hockey League, participate in Pink in the Rink. Hall said ECHL teams that "stepped out early" proved it could work here.

"Last year we had really solid support from bigger organizations and groups of fans who came out to support it," Hall said. "That's what made it so special."

The Gladiators will certainly be looking to gain some ground in the South division, but this weekend is about more than just that.

"The whole purpose is to eradicate something terrible in people's lives," Hall said. "To remember those we have lost and give thanks for those we still have, and a chance for people to come out and enjoy some good hockey."

SideBar: If You Go

· What: Gwinnett Gladiators' Pink in the Rink weekend

· When: 7:05 p.m. Saturday vs. South Carolina, 4:05 p.m. Sunday vs. Charlotte

· Where: The Arena at Gwinnett Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth