A swatch of pink in every hockey rink

It's basically become a yearly tradition at this point. Minor league hockey teams shed the shackles of social norms by persuading large, lumbering men to sport hot pink hockey jerseys for a game or two. But it's the good cause at the heart of it all that keeps everybody coming back for more every season.

Pink in the Rink Night. It's a simple event celebrated at hockey arenas around the continent in a bid to both increase awareness of breast cancer and raise money for related charities. These silly jerseys are normally auctioned off after the game with the proceeds going to a group like Susan G. Komen or a hospital researching a cure for the disease.

Of course this year is no different. Let's take a look at some of the pink sweaters that have been put to use in the AHL to this point in 2014.

Rockford IceHogs

The IceHogs get us started with their pink-accented jerseys — really nothing more than their thirds with the red swapped for pink.

They wore them Jan. 25 for a 2-1 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals. 

Utica Comets

On Jan. 31, one of the AHL's newest members — the Comets — took to the ice in our favorite hue. They knocked out the Syracuse Crunch 3-1.

The club auctioned off their jerseys at the end of the game to benefit the Breast Care Center at Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare.

Even the officials got it on the pink action. The black and pink striped referee outfits are a sight to see. Click through the slideshow above to catch a glimpse.

By the way, if those few photos aren't enough for you, be sure to check out the full gallery on the team's Facebook page. There are some great shots in there.

Worcester Sharks

On Saturday, Feb. 1, the Sharks entered the mix with these numbers — and a rink full of pink ice. They defeated the Providence Bruins 3-2.

It was the third year in a row the Sharks have held such an event. This one benefited The Cup Crusaders, a team that participates in the annual Komen Foundation's Breast Cancer 3-Day walk in Massachusetts.

Hartford Wolf Pack

Just across the state line, the newly re-christened Wolf Pack also held Pink in the Rink on the same night. They beat the Albany Devils 4-3 in a shootout.

The pink-infused jerseys were auctioned off after the game to benefit Komen Connecticut. And here's a fun tidbit from the Pack's website.

The Pink in the Rink theme will include concessions and the Comcast Coliseum Club as well.  The concession stands will be offering pink popcorn, pink cotton candy and pink lemonade, and the Coliseum Club menu will feature cherry plank salmon with pink sauce, pink grapefruit salad and pink lobster bisque.

That's a lot of pink around the building.

By the way, thanks to Wolf Pack fan and regular concept contributor Scott Markiewicz for all the great photos he shared via Twitter.

Rochester Americans

All the focus on breast cancer is great, but for the most part, it directly affects women. The Amerks didn't want the guys feeling left out, so they had Men's Health Night on Jan. 31.

Instead of pink, the team wore powder blue-accented sweaters and beat the Rockford IceHogs 4-1. It seems like the good karma generated by raising money for cancer charities is directly translating to wins on the ice. Not sure how that works, but it's awesome.

By the way, if you want to get your hands on one of these powder blue Americans jerseys, they'll be up for auction through the weekend. The proceeds are going to ZeroCancer.org and The Lipson Cancer Center.

More pink nights to come in 2014

There are still four more AHL teams that I know planning to wear pink this season. Here's a quick list.

  • February 15: Iowa Wild and Hamilton Bulldogs
  • March 1: Springfield Falcons
  • March 21: Lake Erie Monsters

Pink jersey fever has also spread to other minor leagues. I'll do a little research and put together a post like this for the ECHL next week. (And I'll try to remember to come back and update this one later in the season.)


Manchester Monarchs

February 9: Almost missed one. The Monarchs skated out last night wearing a pink version of their black third jersey.

Unfortunately, things didn't turn out as well for them as it did for other teams sporting the pink recently. The Monarchs fell 3-2 to the Providence Bruins.

If you'd like to see more of these jerseys in action, there's video here.

May Minor League Report

All this work on the IceHL's 13 Weeks of R&R project has kept from doing my real job on Icethetics — updating the blog with actual news. In other words, there's a lot to catch up on.

Hartford Wolf Pack officially return to AHL

Well that didn't take long. After playing parts of three seasons as the Connecticut Whale, the Hartford Wolf Pack identity has made a glorious comeback — thanks to their NHL parent club, the New York Rangers.

The Wolf Pack were established in 1997 when the Binghamton Rangers moved to Hartford. Then in 2010, Howard Baldwin happened. His effort to recapture Hartford Whalers failed miserably with the rebranding of the franchise as the Connecticut Whale.

Connecticut Whale, 2010—2013

We applauded the judicious use of green but not the name or the terrible logo. Within two years, Baldwin was gone — which probably says more about his management style than his taste in sports branding. But we're all grateful nonetheless that the Pack is back.

And not for nothing, but the New York Rangers' AHL affiliate is now operated by the parent company of the Philadelphia Flyers, is it not? Global Spectrum is running things these days and it would seem they have two masters. Interesting.

The Rivermen are dead, long live the Rivermen

Speaking of the AHL, some craziness took place on Monday. The Vancouver Canucks who recently acquired the Peoria Rivermen franchise from the St. Louis Blues, announced the team would not operate out of Illinois next season. They don't know where exactly yet. Just not Peoria.

So it seemed the end of a brand that has existed for nearly 30 years. But the Rivermen are plucky. They won't go quietly. After 12 years in the IHL between 1984 and 1996, the franchise transferred to the ECHL for about a decade. Then in 2005, they got the upgrade to the AHL. In 2013, they move down — way down — to the SPHL, that's the Southern Professional Hockey League. (It exists!)

The SPHL is home to teams like the equally plucky Columbus Cottonmouths and the Pensacola Ice Flyers. And now it's also home to...

Bloomington Blaze switch from CHL to SPHL

The Bloomington Blaze are jumping the sinking ship that is the Central Hockey League for the equally crummy SPHL. A lateral move at best. But one they apparently feel is necessary.

The Blaze were founded just two years ago after the folding of the IHL's Bloomington PrairieThunder. (All these minor leagues you've probably never heard of.) They begin play in their new league this fall.

Now that we're on the CHL, we might as well talk about their newest expansion team.

Brampton gets Beast to replace lost OHL team

Earlier this year when we learned the OHL's Brampton Battalion were moving to North Bay, Ontario, it seemed like the good people of Brampton would be without a team. But that's when the Central Hockey League jumped in, expanding into Canada for the first time.

On April 27, the Brampton Beast were revealed to the world. Along with a very vanilla CHL-like logo. I won't pass judgment too hard since somebody was obviously trying. (I just don't know what they were trying for.) In any case, the Beast begin play in the fall. Like Peoria, hockey fans of Brampton won't miss a beat.

For the record, the North Bay Battlion also begin play in the OHL this fall. They will keep the same logo they had in Brampton.

Confirmed: Wolf Pack Coming Back

It was first speculated two months ago. Now multiple sources are reporting that the AHL's Connecticut Whale will once again become the Hartford Wolf Pack next season.

The news turned up online Tuesday morning, via WTIC's Scott Gray, who cited team sources saying the league has approved the name change. Later, the Hartford Courant said Connecticut Wolf Pack was a possibility for the club's rebranding, but the Bridgeport Sound Tigers didn't like the idea.

Apparently an official announcement could be coming within a week.

Neither report was clear on whether they'd also go back to the old Wolf Pack logo, created in 1997 with the team's arrival from Binghamton, New York. But if you ask me, they'd be insane not to. (It was on my list of the best AHL logos last year.)

What do you think of the imminent return of the Wolf Pack?

Connecticut Whale to Be No More?

Silly name and logo could soon be gone

It sounds too good to be true, but just three years after the Connecticut Whale brand was introduced, it may be disappearing, according to the Hartford Courant.

With Howard Baldwin no longer at the helm and new ownership in the picture, there's the possibility the franchise could revert to its previous (better) identity — the Hartford Wolf Pack. The article isn't specific about when the change would happen, but I'm hoping they don't do another midseason rebranding.

Evidence indicates return of Hartford Wolf Pack brand

Here's some of what writer Paul Doyle had to say on the matter — and why he thinks the Wolf Pack could be staging a comeback:

The Connecticut Whale brand was created by Howard Baldwin's Whalers Sports & Entertainment in 2010 and that company no longer runs the business side of the franchise, although it allowed current XL Center operator AEG to use the name and logo this season. The franchise is owned by MSG, but Global will run the team's day-to-day operation in Hartford and handle the marketing.

Unless MSG and Global decide to work out an agreement with WSE, the team's name will likely change. The team could return to the Hartford Wolf Pack, the name of the franchise from 1997 until it was re-branded in 2010. MSG has kept the brand alive by retaining uniforms and has even renewed the hartfordwolfpack.com domain name, updating data base information on the domain name Saturday.

Another possibility is to simply call the team the Rangers — Hartford or Connecticut preceding the name — although that could be a public relations risk. Returning to the Wolf Pack would be simple, especially with the still visible around the team and the XL Center.

The activity with the domain name is interesting. Why keep it if you have no intention of using it again? Plus, we all know the Connecticut Whale name and logo are just dumb.

I'm rooting for the Wolf Pack!

Rangers Unveil Heritage Jersey!

New York Rangers Drury and Lundqvist sport the new sweaters

The New York Rangers officially unveiled their new Heritage Jersey tonight in front of fans gathered at Rockefeller Center.

Rangers unveil Heritage JerseyThe retro look comes as no surprise to anyone who saw the photo Sean Avery posted on his website in September, but we got a much better look during tonight's unveiling, as seen in above photo of Chris Drury and Henrik Lundqvist.

The new sweater, dubbed the Heritage Blueshirt by team marketing gurus, features darker and more subdued colors than the Rangers' standard palette. The blue is darker, the red is duller and the white is more... vintage.

Across the front reads NEW YORK in red, but in a font more typical of 1920s sweaters and different from what the team currently uses. The right shoulder features the 85th anniversary patch being used on the home and road uniforms this season — but in the "Heritage" color palette.

The surname runs straight across the shoulders, not arched, and the Rangers' retired sweaters numbers are stitched onto the inside hem in the back.

If you'd like to see the full photo gallery on the Rangers' website, here's a handy link. And another. Their website is filled to the brim with all sorts of pictures and other features relating to Heritage Week, which officially kicked off tonight.

I haven't managed to track down any details on whether this sweater will only be used this season or if it will be the new third jersey indefinitely. Also I don't believe a schedule has been released at this point. To be fair, I haven't looked very hard either.

One more note somewhat related to the Rangers.

Their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack will officially transition to the Connecticut Whale moniker effective Nov. 17. The team is promoting Saturday's game as the Wolf Pack's "last." Last we heard, the change was to happen between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Looks like they got things in order a bit early. Thanks to Alan H. for the tip!