The ice is blushing, the special jerseys have arrived and the Gwinnett Gladiators are ready for their annual Pink in the Rink weekend.
The event has raised more than $140,000 in just two seasons and the organization is hoping to top last year's mark with three days of games, starting Friday night against Charlotte. This season, the Gladiators are partnering with the American Cancer Society and Sport of Giving as recipients of a majority of the money raised.
Fundraising efforts include a portion of ticket sales, multiple silent auctions, selected pink merchandise and raffles. The biggest chunk of cash, though, comes from the weekend's finale, a live auction of the special jerseys worn Friday, Saturday and Sunday by the team.
This year's jersey is a commemorative throwback-style honoring the Atlanta Knights, the International Hockey League team that played here from 1992-96 and won the Turner Cup championship in 1994.
"We came up with design that puts the two teams together, a little bit Knight and a little bit Gladiator," director of merchandise Christina Johnson said. "It's actually really cool. They came in (Monday)."
During the team's first six seasons, the annual jersey auction has raised an average of $34,000 for local charities. Three years ago, it was incorporated into the "Pink in the Rink" weekend. As was another event, "Girls Gone Gladiators," which is in its fifth year.
"Girls Gone Gladiators" was the brainchild of three women in the Gladiators front office. Johnson is the only one of those ladies still with the team and takes the lead on a number of the weekend's events, including the concourse tables for local businesses geared toward women.
"We were thinking, we've got all the guys (players) here and we should do something for us girls," Johnson said. "We outlined from our perspective what we would want if we were going to a game."
They had no idea if it would work, but met with excellent results. There will be a record number of tables set up on the concourse and Johnson said she's still accepting new ones.
Fans who wish to participate and support the cause can also make a donation at the Georgia Lottery fan information booth located on the main lobby of the arena.
"It's great to see the guys get into it and get behind the cause," Johnson said. "From a merchandise standpoint, it's a huge weekend for me because our fans want to support it in any way possible. Overall, it's simply cool to see so many people come together for an important cause and see the entire Gladiators family support something that obviously needs supporting."