In the pink

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Barb Sweet
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Arena colours ice for women's league night breast cancer event

A landmark centre city hockey rink will be pretty in pink Friday night for a charity event by a red hot women's league.

The Capital Hyundai Arena, formerly known as Prince of Wales Arena, is colouring its ice pink for the Eastern Edge Women's Hockey League Score for the Cure.

Pink ice will dominate the Capital Hyundai Arena in St. John's Friday night when the nine-team Eastern Edge Women's Hockey League present Score for the Cure. Members of each team modelled their team jerseys for this photo. - Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Tele

A landmark centre city hockey rink will be pretty in pink Friday night for a charity event by a red hot women's league.

The Capital Hyundai Arena, formerly known as Prince of Wales Arena, is colouring its ice pink for the Eastern Edge Women's Hockey League Score for the Cure.

The amateur league is so hot in popularity it added a ninth team this year and always has women waiting in line for a spot to play.

Last year, the league raised $9,000 for breast cancer awareness through pledges and T-shirt sales.

This year the event was ramped up when the arena operators agreed to donate pink ice.

"We're thrilled they came on board," said Paula Tessier, a league player and co-ordinator with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Atlantic Chapter.

The league - for women older than 25 - was the perfect fit for such an event, said Tessier, also a Mount Pearl city councillor.

"This is the demographic we want to be breast aware," she said of her pitch of Score for the Cure last year. "I ran it by the league and they loved it."

She started getting e-mails from players recounting personal stories of their own or family members' experiences with breast cancer.

Player Leona Rockwood designs the T-shirts and all the money raised stays in the Atlantic region. The games will begin Friday night - the regular night of play for the league - with a skills competition at 6 p.m.

Turning the ice pink was no simple task.

The special paint costs about $1,000, said Andrew McKim, a partner in the arena and former NHL player. Rink staff at Mile One are donating their time to help colour the ice.

"It's something we have never done. But it's for a good cause," McKim said. "Hopefully, we will get it done right the first time."

The liquid substance is sprayed on and left to dry. Ice is normally coloured white. Capital Hyundai Arena plans to leave the pink ice on all weekend. Another women's group, a 19-plus league, plays Saturday night.

"Once you get it on, it's not easy to get it off," McKim said.

He said the Friday night league has been good to the arena. "For us to donate it was something we thought was a nice gesture," McKim said.

For players like Sue Murphy, breast cancer awareness hits home in a big way.

Her mother is a breast cancer survivor of 20 years. Plus there's the excitement this year of hitting the pink ice.

"It's a good Friday night worth of fun to add to our regular game," said Murphy, whose mother was diagnosed this summer with another type of cancer.

Her league mates sent a collection of flowers, cards and groceries.

"They are so supportive of one another. I have never experienced that," said Murphy, who started playing about five years ago.

In the beginning, Murphy used to practise getting dressed in her hockey gear because she feared being the last in the locker room and holding up the game.

"The first year, my sole focus was to stand up," she recalled.

She now describes the Friday night league as "irreplaceable" for both the love of the game and the friendships.

"It's been one of those turning points in life for me," she said.

The idea of a women's hockey league came about in 1999. It began with four teams and eventually expanded to eight, with the ninth added this year. League president Kristy Piercey said she and now treasurer Michelle Gardiner were chatting one night about wanting to play hockey.

"Now we have 130 playing every Friday night," said Piercey, adding the demand is beyond a waiting list.

New members are welcomed on a first-come, first-served basis, but there are rarely empty spots.

The range of skills between the players - ages 25 to 60 - is vast and the teams are mixed up every year to balance out the playing abilities. Three games are played each Friday night.

"We expect another huge list again this year," said Piercey, who wants to keep it to Friday night. "I can't imagine expanding again. It's a lot of work."

Piercey said the women's league is the largest recreational game in town.

"Most men's leagues are a bit more fickle. They come and go a little bit," said Piercey, who was an able skater in the beginning but didn't know the hockey rules.

When Tessier started, she could skate, but couldn't stop without crashing into the boards. Now she couldn't imagine giving up the game.

"The ladies in the league are unbelievable people," she said.

Meanwhile, anyone who wants to turn out to watch Score for the Cure Friday can make a donation at the door, or contact Paula Tessier at the breast cancer foundation.

bsweet@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Capital Hyundai Arena, Prince of Wales Arena, Eastern Edge Women Hockey League Score Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Atlantic Chapter NHL

Geographic location: Mount Pearl

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