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Castleton continues ‘Pink the Rink’ amid COVID

Published: Mar. 5, 2021 at 6:45 PM EST
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - COVID-19 isn’t stopping a Rutland tradition. Castleton University’s women’s hockey team is still holding their 13th annual Pink the Rink game.

“Despite the fact we may not even play games, we still have to find a way to do this,” says Tim McAuliffe, head coach for Castleton University’s women’s hockey team.

The bleachers at Castleton University’s Pink the Rink game won’t be packed with 750 spectators this year. Instead, it will be cardboard cutouts looking on and fans watching from home.

“When COVID finally goes away, there will still be breast cancer patients in our area that need care, so we did not want to let this tradition end,” says Fred Bagley, a retired breast cancer surgeon, who founded the breast care program at Rutland Regional Medical Center.

He says The Pink the Rink game is about more than just hockey. It’s a chance to unite women from all over who are affected by the same disease. “The crowd that comes are not necessarily hockey fans. there are hugs, there are tears, there are people reuniting with their cancer doctor that they haven’t seen in 15 years because they are a long time survivor,” says Bagley.

Janet Varney is president of the Blue Line Club, the booster club supporting both the men’s and women’s hockey teams. She says this year they did as much as they could to make the activities the teams wanted to do happen. On Saturday they’ll be decorating the lobby and cardboard cutouts in pink to make things feel a little normal. “Because everything has to be virtual this year, we felt a greater need to support that,” says Varney.

Money is typically raised by raffling off pink jerseys and raffle baskets. To date, the games have raised almost $70,000.

“It’s just something we look forward to at the hospital, year after year. So, we are especially happy this year,” says Traci Moore, senior director of development and community relations at Rutland Regional Medical Center.

Donations are being made online and jerseys are still being raffled off, bringing in around $4,000 as of Friday afternoon. But everyone says it’s not about how much money they raise, it’s about raising breast cancer awareness and the community’s spirit.

“Things like this, is a perfect example of something bigger than the game, so to be a part of it is pretty special,” says McAuliffe.

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