For disclosure, I am a disabled person myself, known people affected by MS and have donated to the cause.
With the playoffs in full swing and the world hockey championships getting people arguing over each other’s countries, it’s always a good time to remember the positive side of hockey and where, regardless of what color you wear, become united for a common good cause. Nothing encapsulates this more than Hockey Fights MS, as well as the founder who turned a love of hockey and condition that affects thousands worldwide to a positive organization that has not only grown exceptionally, but has benefited a wide range of projects and organizations.
Hockey Fights MS was never in the international light, starting off with just 7 teams in 2005 on the back of a notion that from negativity, positivity can be grown. Diagnosed with MS, Candice Arnold, the founder, combined a passion for hockey and great resilience to not let the condition hold her back. From this, Hockey Fights MS grew, and never stopped. Now spanning several states and hosting over 100 teams across their tournaments, Hockey Fights MS has become a shining example of how the hockey family can come together to make a difference. The cause involves working together with the biggest charities and organizations in aiding all forms of MS; from helping rehabilitation centres, to research and support centres, including projects like the Johns Hopkins Project RESTORE.
Now raising over $130,000 and rapidly spreading across America, I sat down with the founder of Hockey Fights MS, Candice Arnold, to find out a little more about the growth and potential direction of the growing cause.
After a decade, does the love for hockey still grow strong? Has it grown even further as HFMS grown?
“Yes, I love hockey just as much today as I did when I first started playing 25 years ago. I have met so many people through hockey and have traveled many places because of it, including Sweden and Iceland. I love all aspects of the sport except refereeing – I could never be a ref! I really do enjoy everything that goes into planning HFMS – especially meeting new teams. I love seeing teams return year after year. And, one of the coolest things is when I see someone I don’t know in a random place wearing a HFMS shirt or sweatshirt. Pretty cool!”
There was also the night with the Manchester Monarchs, are there any further plans to get any more AHL, or even NHL teams on board for special nights?
“We actually didn’t have quite enough interest for the Manchester Monarchs game this year, however, we have done things like this in the past with the Reading Royals and the NJ Devils. I’m not sure if we will try to do any more NHL or AHL events. After suffering a pretty serious MS relapse in March, I’ve just been taking things one day at a time. We have had some support from NHL players in the past including donations from Gordie Howe and Jeff Halpern. And teams such as the Bruins, Devils, Caps, and Flyers have also donated items for our raffle.”
Now HFMS has tournaments in several states but the word of the work has gone to international levels, is there any chance you ever maybe doing to a European tour?
“We have expanded a bit since our first tournament in Pennsylvania in 2006. We now have two [Not three?] PA tournaments, 1 [in] Maryland, 1 [in] Massachusetts and 1 [in] Vermont. We have received countless requests from players wanting us to come to Montana, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, and other states which we’ve thought about doing but we’ll see. I have briefly considered Iceland but that would require a lot more planning. [on a side note, I just had a baby so it’s been a little challenging trying to find balance between being a mom and continuing to grow HFMS.]”
With how far the ALS ice bucket challenge has grown, and how far HFMS has grown, do you think it’s become easier now, with social media and easier audiences to raise awareness but to also gain further support?
“Yes, I definitely think things are easier with FB and Twitter. When I first started HFMS, FB was just starting to pick up and Twitter didn’t exist yet, therefore, all communication was done via email. With FB it is so much easier to reach people… especially when people “share” your post or your event. You can make some great connections through friends of friends of friends, etc… “
And lastly, because I must, who will win the Stanley Cup this year?
“HA! I am embarrassed to say that I have absolutely no idea what is happening with playoffs right now. I haven’t watched much hockey because I have a 4 month old baby who consumes most of my time. I usually cheer for the Montreal Canadiens. Then the Bruins. But we’ll see. Maybe soon I can catch a game or two – in between HFMS tournaments and diaper changes! Ha.”
A big thanks to Candice herself and Hockey Fights MS for being very cooperative and allowing me to talk. As usual, these tournament aren’t run by just one person. Want to register a team? Maybe referee or help volunteer? Information on events, beneficiaries and more on Candice’s story can be found on http://www.hockeyfightsms.org/