GRAND RAPIDS — When the Grand Rapids Griffins opened their sixth season against Utah last Friday, it marked the franchise’s first game as a member of the American Hockey League. And the AHL’s opening weekend also marked the beginning of the league’s season-long effort to help victims of last month’s terrorist attacks.
“We are dedicating this season to the memory of the victims of this tragedy, and specifically to the memory of AHL alumni Ace Bailey and Mark Bavis,” said David Andrews, AHL president and CEO.
“The AHL and its 27 member clubs are committed to raising $500,000 for distribution to charitable organizations aiding those affected by the tragedy,” he added.
Griffins Senior Vice President of Business Operations Bob Sack told the Business Journal last week that he expects the league will reach its monetary goal. In fact, he felt that the Griffins opener alone would raise at least $5,000 toward that goal through a special program that the club put together with area businesses and season-ticket holders.
“Forty percent of the tickets those groups purchased will be sent to the relief fund. The rest of that money will be used for tickets for firefighters, police officers and paramedics and their families to attend the game,” said Sack.
The Griffins planned to honor those three groups at the game, and hold a moment of silence for the attack victims.
“The numbers are still coming in. But we think with that program and through some collection points around the arena, we’ll generate between $5,000 and $10,000.”
Sack said the Griffins have another relief-fund event planned for later in the season, and those details would be released as the time drew nearer. So the franchise solidly supports the league’s effort.
But Sack added that the club also is committed to proceeding with its usual fundraising efforts for local charities. Those plans have not been scrapped in lieu of the AHL program.
“We want to continue to do things with them this year, as well. I think a story that is developing is that some of these other charities are struggling a little bit, or expect to struggle. So all of our efforts certainly will not be centered around the relief fund,” said Sack.
“We think it’s important to work with the local charities, as we have done in the past.”
A few seasons ago the Griffins raised $86,000 for a variety of area charities. Sack said the NHL Showcase game held at Van Andel Arena on Sept. 26 raised $10,000 for the Griffins Youth Foundation and IMPACT.
All season long, AHL players will wear commemorative decals on their helmets featuring a red, white and blue ribbon and the numbers 15 and 17, the uniform numbers Bailey and Bavis wore during their AHL careers. Bailey and Bavis were passengers on the United Airlines flight that hijackers crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center. Both were employed by the Los Angeles Kings.