The Marquette Rangers’ annual “Paint the Rink Pink” game has drawn plenty of well-deserved publicity for its dedication to cancer research over the past couple of years.
This weekend’s festivities will carry even more meaning, as Leah Wrazidlo will officiate the contest to become the first female referee to work a cancer awareness game.
“I’m honored to represent the Junior Development Program and USA Hockey by refereeing in the NAHL, and I’m also honored to represent females and female officials for this charitable cause,” she said. “Each game I officiate is equally important as the last, so every time I step on the ice I make sure I’m prepared to the best of my ability.”
The Rangers, who have again partnered with the Marquette General Foundation at Marquette General Health Systems to raise money for the Cancer Center at MGHS, will play the “Paint the Rink Pink” game on Saturday, Oct. 17 against the Alpena IceDiggers in customized pink jerseys, which will be auctioned off at the conclusion of the game. The opening bid for each jersey is $100.
“This should be a fun evening of hockey and entertainment,” said Rangers spokesperson Mark Evans. “It’s a key game within our division, but it’s also a great opportunity for our players to do something to embrace the community they represent. We’re hoping for a great turnout, and high bids on the jerseys to help the Cancer Center.”
Almost everybody’s life has been affected by cancer, and Wrazidlo is no different. Two of her fellow female officials were diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago.
“Thankfully, both of them have recovered, and I know the support they received from the officiating community was extremely positive,” she said.
Wrazidlo began officiating in 2001 as a student-athlete at the University of Minnesota Duluth to earn extra money while finishing up school. Her path up the ranks has led to state tournaments, national championships and international events.
And speaking of the world stage, Wrazidlo, who won an NCAA championship as a player with UMD, will be on the largest in just a couple of months as she, along with two other American female officials - Michigan’s Meg Hishmeh and Minnesota’s Kelly Rolstad - recently received an invite from the International Ice Hockey Federation to officiate in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
“It’s been a long and fun ride,” said Wrazidlo of her career in stripes. “Each year I can’t believe I have the opportunity to do so much. I’ve traveled the United States and several parts of the world to officiate hockey. The best part has been the relationships I’ve formed with so many individuals thanks to ice hockey.”
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)