Although the Plymouth Whalers wore specially designed pink jerseys and dyed their hair pink for the team’s annual Pink Out! For Breast Cancer Awareness game on October 16, another color became prevalent as the evening unfolded.
That color was green, as in over $18,000 raised for the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute.
While pink dominated Compuware Arena, perhaps the fact that the Windsor Spitfires didn’t wear pink was a contributing factor towards the Whalers’ 4-1 win over their cross-river rivals. The season’s largest crowd – 3,127 – was also the season’s loudest crowd, even breaking out into The Pink Wave at one point, as the Whalers broke a scoreless tie after one period of play with two unanswered goals in the second period and then pulled away in the third frame for the victory.
Plymouth goaltender Scott Wedgewood – playing with a pink Mohawk – emerged as the game’s first star, stopping 34-of-35 shots. RJ Mahalak, Robbie Czarnik, Garrett Meurs, and Stefan Noesen scored for the Whalers.
The game had its own distinctive script, but several others stories emerged – even continuing after the whistle, when many of the Whalers literally gave their game-worn jerseys off their back to fans who had won silent auction bids for the jerseys.
Plymouth players were unfailingly cheerful throughout the whole week, getting their hair dyed pink at mid-week and keeping it that color for the days leading up to the Pink Out! to help raise awareness in the community.
“I’ve done this for the last two years and it’s great for the community,” said Wedgewood. “I love doing this. I thought I’d do something a little different with the Mohawk. Everyone in the room got different things (styles).
“It’s fun and we had some ladies come out tonight who were breast cancer survivors. It’s great to see everybody in pink to bring support and raise money. The guys love doing it – it’s no too often guys get to wear a pink jersey and play a sport.”
James Livingston is a five-year veteran Ontario Hockey League veteran who experienced his first Pink Out! with the Whalers.
“It’s for a great cause and the guys really got behind it,” Livingston said. “It’s great. We really embraced it and helped make it a great event.”
The Whalers went in shifts to the Lucky Hair Company in Canton on October 13 and were joined by a number of media members, including Neal Rubin of the Detroit News, Rashaun Rucker of the Detroit Free Press, and reporters from Fox-2.
Perhaps the most distinctive hair style went to defenseman Austin Levi, who wore the design of a breast cancer ribbon on the back of his head.
“Someone suggested I have a ribbon cut in the back of my head,” Levi said with a smile. “The stylist, Theresa, just ran with it and it looks really good. I’m really happy with the result. People have told me they really like it, that’s it’s really out there, but for a great cause.”
Maureen Bender of the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute didn’t dye her hair at the Whalers pink out party at the Lucky Hair Company, but appreciated the support anyway.
“This is wonderful,” she said. “The guys are such good sports about this. There are smiles everywhere and it seems like everyone is having a good time with it. We appreciate everything the Whalers have done for breast cancer awareness.”
The Whalers’ pink jerseys added realism to the event.
“It’s amazing – you watch National Football League games and the guys are wearing pink tips on their shoes and pink wrist bands,” Bender said. “The pink Whalers jerseys are awesome. They’re going to pop out on television and it shows how dedicated the whole organization is towards the event.”
The next day, Whaler players – in pink hair and pink jerseys – worked as waiters at CJ’s Brewing Company at Compuware Arena. Katrina Hancock of WDIV covered the event in a live report, looking distinctive in one of the pink jerseys. When asked by long-time anchor Carman Harlan if she was going to dye her hair pink for the event, Hancock quickly declined, but with a smile on her face.
Plymouth head coach Mike Vellucci is a classic, careful dresser, but with associate coach Joe Stefan, dyed his hair pink after donations for the event reached $10,000. Whalers alumni now in the National Hockey League – David Legwand (Nashville), Chad LaRose (Carolina), James Neal (Dallas), Jared Boll (Columbus), and James Wisniewski (New York Islanders) – were among the alumni contributing towards the Pink Out!
The opening face-off of the game continued with the Pink Out! theme, as breast cancer survivors Mary Beth Bloom (billet mom of Alex Aleardi), Jody Kosman (billet mom of Tom Wilson),