In many ways, the ECHL officials could be considered the 28th team in the League. While they won’t show up in the standings, they are a group of talented men, handpicked for their abilities, who must work together in order to be successful. Like many other teams do at this time of year, the ECHL officials are working collaboratively to raise funds for a cause bigger than themselves.
In a tradition that dates back seven years, the ECHL on-ice officials use the month of November as the commencement of their annual fundraising efforts. The fundraising typically lasts for two months, and all funds raised are donated within the city that hosts the League’s annual mid-season event, whether that be an All-Star Classic or Hockey Heritage Weekend.
While many men use November as a month to grow facial hair they typically wouldn’t sport, in an effort to raise funds and awareness for men’s health issues, the ECHL officials have historically shared their donations with a children’s hospital in the designated city for that year. Previous recipients of the ECHL Officials donations include the Community Health Network, Bronson’s Children’s Hospital, Orlando Children’s Hospital, Anchorage Children’s Hospital, Toledo Children’s Hospital, and Glens Falls Hospital. Additionally, the group has had the chance to support a couple of former ECHL officials who have undergone their own critical medical diagnoses.
While a small percentage of the ECHL officiating staff sport the unique facial hair we can be accustomed to see this time of year, the emphasis is made on the funds raised. Paul Carnathan, a veteran linesman in his 18th season has been a part of all of the organized ECHL officiating fundraising efforts and, as a father to a seven-year-old son, recognizes additional significance of the donation he and his teammates make each season.
“We as officials are very fortunate to be healthy enough to do what we love and to be involved in the great sport of hockey,” he said. “Those of us that are parents know how important the health of your children is and feel compelled to do what we can to help in any way we can for those who are less fortunate."
Each year, one official on staff steps up to coordinate the fundraising efforts. This year’s fundraising coordinator, Andrew Bruggeman, is a third year ECHL referee from North Mankato, Minn.
“I think it's important we as a staff fundraise because we're small parts of the communities we donate to. We're consistently in and out of the cities in our league so it's important to give back to those communities,” Bruggeman told ECHL.com. “We are also very fortunate to be given the opportunity to work in the league and do something we all love that it's important to me to give back to some people who may not be as fortunate as we are.”
While the camaraderie of the team efforts towards the greater good is certainly great motivation for these gentlemen to work towards this common goal, many draw on personal influences as the driving force to raise funds each year.
As referee Sean Fernandez recalled, “My father, who is my role model, was diagnosed with cancer while serving in the United States Marine Corps. He then established the Marine Corps run program, Toys for Tots, in my hometown in Michigan.”
Fernandez drew on memories from when he was a young boy, starting from about age eight, when he spoke to ECHL.com. “Every time around Christmas I would accompany him along with other marines to the local hospital where less fortunate children would receive a donated toy. To be able to see how happy such a small gesture was in these children's life was beautiful and something I will never forget.”
The ECHL Officials may not have the biggest fan base when they are on the ice, but one thing that’s certain is that they are working together to help support the communities which they officiate each hockey season.
If you wish to support their fundraising efforts this year, 100% of which will be donated to ProMedica Hospital in Toledo, OH during the 2019 CCM/ECHL All-Star Weekend presented by ProMedica, you can do so here: https://www.gofundme.com/echl-charity-fundraising