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'Pink in the Rink' has special meaning for Gladiators' ice crew

Crews work to dye the ice pink on Monday morning at the Arena at Gwinnett Center by applying layers of pink water to the surface in advance of games to raise money for cancer awareness. (Photo: Robin Reuter)

Crews work to dye the ice pink on Monday morning at the Arena at Gwinnett Center by applying layers of pink water to the surface in advance of games to raise money for cancer awareness. (Photo: Robin Reuter)

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Crews work to paint the ice pink on Monday morning at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in advance of games to raise money for cancer awareness. (Photo: Robin Reuter)

The Gwinnett Gladiator’s Pink in the Rink fundraiser is back this week for its seventh year, but this time the cause has hit close to home for those who work on the ice. Scott Wages, a member of the ice crew for numerous years, has an 11-year-old son, Tyler Wages, who is battling cancer.

“(Scott’s) life has just been turned upside down, and Tyler has been so tough in the hospital,” said Billy McConnell, the arena’s ice operations supervisor.

McConnell wore his blue #TeamTyler bracelet while spraying the pink coating on the ice and said, “I’ll never take it off.”

In what has become a tradition for the team, the Gladiators partner with Sport of Giving, Gwinnett Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society to raise awareness for the early detection of, and recovery from, different kinds of cancer. Pink in the Rink has raised $275,000 over the past six years, said Christi Johnson, director of media, game operations and merchandising. The Gladiators host Pink in the Rink toward the end of the season instead of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness month, because it works better with their schedule.

A seven-man crew spent half the day Monday on the ice using a Jet Ice spray system with a 125-gallon tank to coat the rink with a mixture of clearcoat pink, resin and cold water. The rink will be a pale pink for Tuesday’s Gladiator game, but the official Pink in the Rink fundraising event will occur at games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

In addition to painting the rink pink, the Gladiators will be selling Pink in the Rink merchandise at the team store, and any sale involving pink merchandise will go toward the overall funds raised over the weekend. Customers can also show support for Pink in the Rink Weekend by purchasing a 6- or 12-voucher Pink Pack. The packs include undated vouchers good for any of the Gladiators remaining regular season games and a voucher redeemable for an official 2014 Pink in the Rink Puck.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit gwinnettgladiators.com.