Senior defenseman Cameron Campbell cheers for the goal. On Oct. 15, 2021, the UGA Ice Dawgs take on Clemson at the Classic Center. (Photo/Sidney Chansamone, @sid.chansa)

Working off the ice: Georgia hockey in the community

The Georgia hockey team was established in 1987, founded by a group of students who wanted to create a new tradition in the Classic City. Since then, the team has become a part of Athens’ sports, with fans filling up the Classic Center to watch games. While everyone sees what happens on the ice, the team does more outside of playing hockey.

Every year, the team has weekends set aside to support Bulldogs Battling Breast Cancer and Savannah Children’s Hospital. It has several events where it partners with Nuçi’s Space, an Athens mental health organization that focuses on musicians. This year, it is adding another community event to its schedule, the Veterans Cup in Macon, to commemorate all who have served in the armed forces.

Georgia hockey general manager John Camp understands that they are a hockey team, but he stresses to the players to give back because they are “people first and hockey players second.”

“We are citizens of the earth,” Camp said. “Not just citizens of UGA, not just citizens of Athens.”

Bulldogs Battling Breast Cancer

Bulldogs Battling Breast Cancer is an Athens-based charity that donates money to St. Mary’s Health Care System.

“The publicity about our charity has really grown,” Dwight Standridge, who is a board member with Bulldogs Battling Breast Cancer, said. “The last five years, we’ve donated six figures to St. Mary’s.”

Georgia hockey and Bulldogs Battling Breast Cancer teamed up to create an event called “Pink in the Rink,” where fans are encouraged to wear pink. The team wore pink jerseys specially made for the series.

The jerseys were then auctioned off, and sold out. The funds from the auction as well as pledges from fans raised over $10,000 for Bulldogs Battling Breast Cancer, Camp said.

Fans pledged money for each goal Georgia scored. Against Clemson, the pledge per goal reached $382. The Bulldogs scored eight goals against the Tigers, bringing the total donation to over $3,000.

Georgia received the Community Service Award twice from the American Collegiate Hockey Association for its partnership with Bulldogs Battling Breast Cancer, Camp said.

“Coach Camp has a really good group of kids,” Standridge said. “What I like about him — he really instills in his team and those kids to be part of the community, give back and be involved in making other people’s lives better.”

Nuçi’s Space

Georgia hockey teamed up with Nuçi’s Space in spring 2020 to bring awareness to mental health. The Bulldogs used the hashtags “Let’s talk about it” and “End the stigma” to help bring awareness to these issues about mental health.

Nuçi’s Space and UGA hockey had plans to partner together last year to host a game, but COVID-19 heavily impacted what they were able to do. Instead, the two came together to put on an outdoor “Skate Night” on Feb. 4.

The night allowed people throughout the community to join together in a time of isolation to skate outside with some of the team. This was one way last year they started the conversation about mental health.

Along with Skate Night, the team posted several pictures on its Twitter with tips from Nuçi’s Space on how to disconnect from social media.

Camp said that bringing awareness to mental health is important because there is shame associated with seeking help.

“Once you dig into it, you realize the stigma behind it, especially for guys,” Camp said.

He said that men often don’t say anything about their mental health because of societal stigma. Camp said men are told that speaking on these issues is perceived as a sign of weakness.

This year, the hockey team plans to host a concert before the 9 p.m. Tennessee game on Dec. 3 with Nuçi’s Space.

Veterans Cup

This year, the first Veterans Cup will be held in Macon. There are four teams that will compete in the two-game series: Georgia, Georgia Tech, Auburn and Florida State.

The Macon Mayhem, an ice hockey club, partnered with Visit Macon, Spectra and the South Eastern Collegiate Hockey Conference to host the first Veterans Cup to honor U.S. veterans.

Anna Marie Summers, the director of corporate relations for the Macon Mayhem, said seeing sold-out jerseys and packed crowds after hosting college hockey games pushed them to make this a charitable event.

Camp said that the goal of this tournament is to highlight veterans and honor their sacrifices.

The military weekend will start out with college games and it will conclude with games from the Macon Mayhem.

Georgia will start the tournament on Nov. 12 against Florida State and it will end the series with some clean, old-fashioned hate against Georgia Tech on Nov. 13.

Savannah Children’s Hospital

During the annual weekend of the Savannah Hockey Classic in Savannah, the Ice Dawgs stop at Memorial Health Children’s Hospital of Savannah.

While visiting the hospital, the team brings gifts such as miniature hockey sticks and beanies for the children. The entire hockey staff is included in this event.

“You’re brightening that kid’s day,” Camp said. “We come out of it feeling very fortunate and [with] a sense of, ‘Wow, it really feels good to help someone,’ and I think that is what carries over to the players.”

The hockey players wear a patch for the children’s hospital on every jersey they wear. The team wears a special jersey for the Savannah tournament that is auctioned off after the game.

Source: Molly Linder – The Red & Black



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