Give Blood Play Hockey still setting records in 13th year
The 2019 Give Blood Play Hockey charity inline hockey tournament celebrated its 13th anniversary Oct. 25-27 at The Rinks-Irvine Inline – again with record-breaking numbers.
“We will not have a final number on how much we raised (as of press time), but we are confident we will beat our donation total to Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) from last year,” said tournament co-founder Mary Korus of the event that had raised $1,077,441 in its previous 12 years.
Pacific Premier Bank and Pathway Capital served as title sponsors of this year’s event. CHOC remains the primary beneficiary.
Numbers figured prominently in the event’s 13th edition.
Thirteen was the jersey number worn by Casey Strale, whose courageous battle against a rare form of cancer rallied the Southern California hockey community to his cause, particularly through the GBPH event. His memory (#13Strong) was honored all weekend long.
The number 515, as in the number of pints of donated blood collected at this year’s event, was another one to celebrate, Korus said.
The 515 pints broke last year’s record of 497, bringing total blood donations to more than 4,000 pints.
“This is a huge accomplishment,” Korus said. “For the first time this year, we collected power red units – allowing a single person to give two pints. It was pretty awesome.”
The procedure, which collects red blood cells and returns plasma and platelets to the donor, helped underscore this year’s blood drive theme of “Save the Humans.”
“Blood is a special thing; it can’t be made,” Korus said. “It can only be donated from other people. It is truly a way for humans to save humans. You never know when you will need blood.”
A total of 110 teams participated, ranging from 6U through adult, including pro and women’s divisions.
This year’s “something different” spotlighted the Give Blood Play Hockey Vets League. Korus said the goal was to bring together key individuals who had been playing in Give Blood Play Hockey since the tournament’s inception in 2007. Four teams were created: Give, Blood, Play and Hockey.
Players flew in from several states, including Colorado, Texas and New York.
“Many of these players played in Give Blood Play Hockey in the first year as 13-year-olds while others coached those 13-year-olds,” Korus said. “It was a tribute to the players.”
Peter Quayle, Korus’s brother, led all 38 players (and the 6U Give Blood Play Hockey team) into the rink for a ceremonial puck drop.
Quayle took the microphone and spoke about the importance of the players to this event, noting that more than 10,000 players have played in Give Blood Play Hockey since its founding. He highlighted, in particular, the contribution made by referee Ryan Martin, who has donated 100 percent of his paycheck over the past two years back to Give Blood Play Hockey, a sum of more than $800 per year.
Martin refereed 46 games this year, including the Give Blood Play Hockey game.
Quayle also spoke of Strale in a touching tribute.
“Some people knew Casey as a friend, some knew him as a son, a brother, a teammate, but truly, he was a hockey player just like all of us, and he should be out here with all of us,” Quayle said. “We know he is here in spirit.”
Casey’s parents, Chris and Traci, dropped the ceremonial puck. Casey’s brother, Kyle, and Mark Greco, father of Give Blood Play Hockey poster child Niko Greco, took the faceoff.
Korus was proud to note that Niko, an 11-year-old leukemia survivor, participated for the first time as a player at this year’s event.
Casey’s Cup, an ironman ice hockey tournament honoring Casey’s memory and serving as a fundraiser for cancer research, is scheduled for April 11, 2020, at the Great Park Ice facility in Irvine.
— Phillip Brents
(Dec. 5, 2019)