Griffins drop puck for cancer research
The defending Calder Cup champions will don purple jerseys and play for cancer research Friday night at Van Andel Arena.
In a partnership with Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids, the Grand Rapids Griffins will host the third-annual Purple Community game, when they face off against the Iowa Wild at 7 p.m.
VAI’s Purple Community 100% Hope is a fundraising initiative, allowing individuals and organizations to create events to help support research on cancer and neurodegenerative diseases at the research facility.
A portion of each $25 Purple Pack for the game — which includes a Griffins purple game shirt, lower-bowl seat and the opportunity to participate in an on-ice group photo — will go toward VAI.
The purple jerseys worn by the Griffins at the game will also be auctioned off, and the proceeds will benefit VAI. The average price of a jerseys auctioned off at last year was roughly $400.
Tom McCollum, a goalie and fifth-season Griffin, said the game is one little thing the team can do to help in the fight against cancer.
“I really think it’s a great event to help raise awareness,” McCollum said. “We all know how destructive the disease has been in all its various forms.”
McCollum add that as a recognizable name, the Griffins have a fairly large fan base, which can help spread awareness of how destructive cancer can be.
“It is a big problem worldwide,” McCollum said. “It is nice to call extra attention to it.”
Two people who’ve been affected by cancer will participate in the ceremonial puck drop: 14-year-old Ethan Miller, who continues to fight Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, and long-time Griffins goal judge Harold “Doc” Pierce, who has throat cancer.
The Purple Community game "brings the impact of cancer home to the community,” said Dr. Nick Duesbery, associate professor in the center for cancer and cell biology and head of the laboratory of cancer and developmental cell biology at VAI.
Duesbery’s research on cancers such as melanoma and sarcomas benefit from Purple Community events.
He’s also a volunteer coach with the Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Foundation.
The Griffins play in the American Hockey League and are the top affiliate of the National Hockey League’s Detroit Red Wings.