MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Yooper pride was on full display Monday night at Blackrocks Brewery in Marquette for the United Way of Marquette County’s launch event for the Yooper’s United Hockey team.
The team consists of 22 players who are coming together for an opportunity to compete against the Red Wings Alumni team and to raise money for the United Way of Marquette County.
“We just reached out to the community to try to get a good assortment of local hockey talent that will help to put on a good show,” said Andrew Rickauer, the Executive Director of the United Way of Marquette County. “The United Way is all about bringing the community together and lifting up the community.”
“We definitely want to put on a good show for the community,” said Nick Boyle, a member of the Yooper’s United team. “Obviously we want a good scoring game and one that’s well competitive is going to be one that raises the most fundraising for the United Way. The whole point of this is to raise awareness of what good the United Way of Marquette County does for our local community and anything we’re able to do with that as a part of this game is just a little extra.”
Leading up to the game on September 17, members of Yooper’s United will hold their own fundraising efforts. The top 2 players who raise the most funds will get an opportunity to play on the Red Wings Alumni team.
“Some of the players that are participating are doing a fundraising challenge to see who can do the most fundraising leading up to the event,” said Rickauer. “We work with 31 partnering agencies with programs from youth to adults with disabilities, senior citizens, food insecurity, and housing. This is a big event to really raise awareness of local needs and to raise funds to help with those needs.”
For the players who get a chance to play in the game, it’s an opportunity to get to take the ice with some of their heroes.
“It’s nice to see the community coming together for something like this because really a lot of these players that a lot of us grew up over the years watching and idolizing,” said Boyle. “Whether or not they played 50 years ago or ten years ago there are still going to be some players that people recognize and really enjoy getting to see in real life for the first time.”
With players of all different ages and skill levels, Barbara Salmela is the only female on the Yooper’s United roster. Despite being the oldest player on the team, her passion for the sport is burning brighter than ever.
“I just really love the game,” said Salmela. I can’t get enough of it. My husband thinks I’m nuts for being on the ice as much as I am. Anybody who knows the Red Wings, it’s like a life goal or it’s like a dream come true to play with the Red Wings, even just to go see them. I’ve been playing hockey for probably about 20 years. I was a twirl girl prior to that. So, I just love hockey and I can’t get enough. I love fundraising and this is a great opportunity to help the community.”
Salmela hopes she can be an example to young women who are interested in playing hockey.
“Women’s hockey is really coming into view in the last couple of years with the U.S. Women going to the Olympics and the competition between Canada,” said Salmela. “The girl’s hockey program and Marquee Junior Hockey could certainly use some girls to get involved and this is just a good way to say: “come on girls let’s go you can do it.”
Tickets for the game between the yoopers united and the red wings alumni team will be available in the next couple of weeks.
To keep up with the fundraising efforts or to learn more about ‘Hockey Night’ at the Berry Events Center taking place in September, visit the United Way of Marquette County’s Facebook Page.