Wildcats hosting Purple Game Friday

The National Cancer Institute estimates that each year more than 1.7 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer.

On Friday, the Alpena High hockey team will do its part to support those who have been affected by the disease with its annual Purple Game at Northern Lights Arena.

The Wildcats will host Traverse City West at 7 p.m.

The purple cancer ribbon represents all cancers, those affected by cancer and cancer survivors. With that in mind, Alpena will wear purple jerseys for the game.

“It’s such a terrible disease and it’s nice to be able to chip in any way we can to help out in any event,” Alpena coach Chris Limback said. “You hope you never have to have an event (for this reason) and sadly (cancer is) such a big part of our world right now.”

Event organizers plan to deck Northern Lights Arena out in purple as much as possible. In addition to posters being hung around the rink, one of the biggest sources of purple will come from the “I’m Fighting For” signs. Hundreds of signs will be made available for people to fill out the names of family and friends who have been affected by cancer.

“(The game) is a small way Wildcat hockey can give back to the community in some form as cancer is something that has touched all of our lives in some form,” Lisa Kent, one of this year’s event organizers, said.

At the beginning of the first period, a brief ceremony will be held where those in attendance can pay tribute to those they are fighting for. Donations are welcomed and accepted for every sign that’s filled out. Proceeds from those signs will go to Friends Together.

In addition to the signs, Pass The Helmet donations will be accepted in the stands and the Alpena Blue Line Club will donate its portion of the game’s 50/50 raffle to Friends Together.

This year’s Purple Game will be the seventh annual event hosted by the Wildcats. Supporters of the hockey program and Friends Together worked together to make the event a reality and the first event–a Pink Game–took place on Jan. 11, 2013 and saw Alpena defeat Petoskey 7-3.

Last season’s event raised more than $700 and saw the Wildcats defeat Cadillac 3-2 in overtime.

While the event can be an emotional experience for many of the fans in attendance, it can that way for players and coaches as well. In past seasons, supporters of Alpena athletics who have been affected by cancer and their families have been honored before the game and taken part in a ceremonial puck drop.

Friday’s ceremonial puck drop will be done by Dena Stevens, wife of Alpena’s PA announcer George Stevens and mother of Alpena assistant coach Ian Stevens and junior defenseman Sean Stevens.

“I think for some it really tugs at their shirt strings so to speak, because a lot of families are affected by it,” Limback said.

The Wildcats are coming off of an impressive showing at the MIHL Showcase. Over two days last weekend, Alpena (15-4-1) defeated two ranked Division 3 teams and showed that it could more than hold its own against some of the state’s best teams.

Limback called the showcase a rewarding and special moment for his team and was impressed with how Alpena played.

“Words can’t describe it. I was going (down) memory lane the other day and I saw a pass from 2005 when we were there,” Limback said. “It’s been so long (since) we’ve been there and it was great to be back and show that we could really play.”

Friday’s game marks the first of four straight home games for the Wildcats. Alpena will host West Friday, Gaylord on Feb. 12 in a continuation of a game from Jan. 18, Cadillac on Feb. 15 and Traverse City Central on Feb. 16.