Puck Daddy - NHL

Last season, the AHL's Norfolk Admirals tried a rather bold experiment in order to raise funds for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the organization dedicated to fighting breast cancer. It was called "Pink in the Rink," and the team's home ice was painted for its game against the New York Rangers' affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack.

As shown in the image above, taken from the catwalk at The Scope in Norfolk, the ice wasn't so much pink as ... well, reminiscent of the world's largest Italian Ice. From the Virginia Pilot in Jan. 2008:

The much-discussed "pink ice" wound up taking on a dark, fuschia-like tint, which made for a striking visual from the stands but provided players with an unusual challenge. "We had no idea where the red line or the blue line were," Jancevski, the Admirals captain, said with a smile. "Everything just looked pink."

Confusing for the players, but an amazing sight, right? "It was a little bit too amazing of a visual, to be honest with you," said Keith Phillips, media relations for the Admirals. "But it didn't benefit one side or the other, because they both had to play on it."

Saturday night, Jan. 16, at 7:15 p.m., the Admirals will once again host "Pink in the Rink" to support the Komen fund, and the team is rather confident that it's figured out how to get the ice colored correctly rather than looking like someone poured a container of Kool-Aid mix into the Zamboni.

Plus, there's an added attraction this year: The visiting team is the Worcester Sharks, affiliate of the San Jose Sharks, which means hockey fans may be treated to the surreal sight of legendary agitator Claude Lemieux skating on pink ice.

Last year's game featured charity auctions and other breast cancer awareness functions. From WAVY:

The fact that the players had trouble finding the lines was a concern the Admirals wanted to address by lightening the colors for this season's game. Phillips said the team has learned from the process last January.

"It's kind of funny: Last year, we only used half of the recommended paint on the ice. It actually would have been many, many shades darker had we followed the instructions," he said. "This year, we're only going to use a quarter of that."

It takes about eight hours to create pink ice, and that procedure will begin after tonight's game, which is also against the Sharks.

Arena workers first shave down the ice slightly, before using a 10-foot sprayer to put down a mixture of pink "coloring." That'll take about two hours, and then the next six or seven hours are used to build up another half-inch layer of ice on top of that.

"They do it very slowly so they don't dilute the pink. It's almost like they're entombing the color," said Phillips.

Both teams will have a pregame skate on the ice at about 10 a.m. to get a feel for the puck and the lines with the unusual coloring.

Now, about that coloring, and the overall vibe of the charity drive: It does have an affect on the mood of the game.

In the stands, the typically rowdy Admirals fans were a bit more subdued and a lot more positive during last season's game, Phillips said.

For the players, perhaps the ice was too little pink and too close to angry red, as the teams had a couple of fights and nearly engaged in a gloves-off line brawl during the game.

The first "Pink in the Rink" last year raised over $8,000 for Susan G. Komen, and Phillips said that ticket sales are ahead of that pace for Saturday's game. Again, there will be special events around the arena, such as a breast cancer informational session, survivor participation during game night, "Hockey 101- A Clinic for Women" and a silent auction for player-autographed Tampa Bay Lightning merchandise from the Admirals' parent club

The Lightning recently recalled infamous goon Steve Downie from Norfolk, depriving fans from seeing the former Philadelphia Flyers tough guy skating around on pink ice.

But there still might be Claude Lemieux, the legendary pest who won Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens, Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils. Signed to a minor-league contract this season by the Sharks and trying to make an NHL comeback, Lemieux has 10 points in 21 games for Worcester.

A player many once considered the most hated man in hockey, potentially playing a game on pink ice?

"I'm not sure if Mr. Lemieux has experienced anything like this in his successful hockey career," said Phillips.

For more information about "Pink in the Rink" and Saturday night's game, call 757-640-1212 or go online to http://www.norfolkadmirals.com

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