Special New Mexico Ice Wolves jerseys will raise funds, provide food for displaced Ukrainian families
Stan Hubbard, the NAHL team's owner, works with two Minnesota interests in an effort to help provide food for the people whose lives have been upended by Ukraine's on-going war with Russia.
ALBUQUERQUE — The scenes on the news coming from Eastern Europe have been hard to see. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, countless lives have been lost and even more families have seen their worlds upended — parents killed or missing, homes destroyed, schools closed and people displaced as the conflict rages on.
Watching all this horror from the other side of the world, Stan Hubbard felt the need to do something — anything — to help.
“We’re all seeing this incredible devastation. These people are desperate. It’s horrible to see people being displaced and attacked,” said Hubbard, who is the owner of the North American Hockey League’s New Mexico Ice Wolves and has family roots in Minnesota. “A person looks at that and thinks, ‘What can I do? What can we do?’”
The Ice Wolves, who began play in 2019, have one of the more popular and acclaimed logos in the sports world, and they have fun with it, creating special logo designs in honor of St. Patrick’s Day or Christmas, or even Dia De Los Muertos, which is an important annual event in Hispanic culture.
When the Russian invasion began, the team worked with Jim Bergquist of JLB Design Studio in Victoria, Minn., and created a new Ice Wolves logo design. Featuring the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag, the logo has been widely used on social media to show support for the people defending their homeland. But Hubbard wanted to do more.
They knew about Feed My Starving Children, a Twin Cities-based organization that provides meals ready to be shipped around the world.
“Using all volunteer labor, they pack meals that are nutritionally balanced and cost 24 cents a meal. Last year they provided one million meals a day in all parts of the world, and they’ve been helping in Ukraine for a lot of years, not just since the war began,” Hubbard said. “They already have connections and distribution there and at the time we spoke they already had more than a million meals on the way to the region. They have requests for more than 4 million meals, so they’re working fast and furious.”
The Ice Wolves created a special jersey manufactured by K1, based in Cloquet, Minn., which will be worn by the team on Friday, April 15, 2022, in a home game versus the Odessa (Texas) Jackalopes. A group from the Ukrainian-American community in Albuquerque will be on the ice before the first faceoff, clad in traditional garments, to sing both the Ukrainian and American national anthems. Following the game, the special jerseys will be available for bid via DASH Auctions , with 100 percent of the money raised going directly to Feed My Starving Children for the Ukrainian relief effort.
“Our hope is that we can get beyond our normal fans and families and find people who want to help,” Hubbard said. “In return they’re going to get a nice jersey, and every dollar they spend provides four meals. It’s an amazing return on the investment.”
For those who just want to donate, the team has set up a link ( www.fmsc.org/IceWolves ) where they are accepting gifts of all sizes. The original goal was to raise $50,000 through donations and the jersey auction, which would provide 200,000 meals. As of three days before the game, they had already brought in $32,000 with high hopes of meeting and beating their fundraising goal.
On the ice, the team is exceeding expectations as well. As a first-year expansion team in 2019-20, the Ice Wolves predictably took their lumps. Last season was better on the rink, despite the team having to play most of its “home” games in Texas, as the state of New Mexico had some of the more strict pandemic-related lockdowns in place.
With the 2021-22 playoffs about to begin, the team — coached by Stillwater, Minn., native Phil Fox — is second in the NAHL's South Division with a 36-17-2-3 record, has clinched a playoff spot, and is hopeful that their first trip to the Robertson Cup finals in Blaine, Minn., next month is a realistic goal.
Hubbard has put more than $5 million in improvements into their arena to make it a destination for the small but growing hockey community in New Mexico, and next year they will bring an NA3HL team to Albuquerque, to offer fans two levels of junior hockey. But before all of that, there are two more regular season games to be played against Odessa, including one on Friday that has meaning stretching all the way around the globe.
“Our team, our organization and our community is really getting behind this, and it’s a pretty nice feeling,” Hubbard said. “It’s the kind of thing where you ask, ‘What can a junior hockey team do?’ Well, this is what we can do. And I think we’re punching above our weight on this one and can make a pretty big impact.”